Declaration for 8 March 2016 – International Day of Women Workers
by Almedina Gunić, International Women's Secretary of Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), www.thecommunists.net
1. Day by day, we women shape the world in which we live, through our work and through our struggles. We do so as working women in China, by the millions, in factories of companies, performing our daily tasks, constituting a huge portion of the global working class. At the same time we strike with iron resolve as factory workers in the struggle against exploitation in Cambodia, organizing by the hundreds of thousands for higher wages, for the establishment of trade unions, and for our equality as women against the oppression of the factory and against the brutal police. We are the heroines of the struggle against inhuman dictatorships like that of al-Sisi in Egypt and Assad in Syria. We are the spearhead of the struggle against imperialism and its consequences. For all what we are we are persecuted and punished every day. For a decade now, we are attacked in Mexico, often raped, murdered and buried in the desert. We are persecuted as fighters against the government in Burundi, robbed of our lives in the dark of night. We are fearsome warriors in the eyes of the apartheid state of Israel, imprisoned only because we raise a hand against the inhuman oppression of our Palestinian people. We are the nightmare of the ruling classes around the world, the Furies who cannot be bound as much as they try. We cannot be defeated and will not break whatever the class enemy might do. We are the morning, bringing the light to our oppressed brothers who are fighting, as workers and as the poor, in towns and in the country, against exploitation and oppression. For them, we are not and never will be Furies, but rather examples. All that we are throughout the entire year, Sisters, we recall as members of the RCIT on March 8.
2. The core of the global working class is shifting more and more to the east and south. The emerging factory towns throughout the Asian continent resemble similar developments in the 19th century Europe and America. In China, our sisters live in miniscule, confined spaces, dozens of bunk beds crammed into a room with a small stove being the pinnacle of luxury. Many of these women are migrant workers, separated almost all the year round from their families. From early morning until late at night, they are the wage slaves of corporations. Most spend their entire day working at a piece rate. In addition to immediate improvements, such as replacing the piece rate with a decent hourly wage, and the ability to organize in a union, we are struggling with our sisters for the expropriation of the factories, their placement under public ownership and their control by the workers; in particular in the case of factories which have been closed or are facing closure. Our sisters in China have played a central role in numerous strikes in the past, especially in the province of Guangdon, where 30% of China’s exports are produced in countless factories almost exclusively staffed by a female workforce. But, in addition to the appalling conditions in which they work, our sisters are also forced to fight daily against sexual assault, so prevalent in the workplace. Surveys conducted in the third largest city in China, Guangzhou, reveal that at least 70% of women workers regularly suffer sexual assault. Therefore, the fight of our sisters in their workplaces is not only against their demeaning exploitation as workers, but also as victims of sexual violence and intimidation. The present and the future of the global class struggle are directly and significantly influenced by the working class women of China. Thus, the building of a worldwide revolutionary women’s movement will depend to a great extent on our Chinese sisters.
3. The struggles of our sisters in Cambodia are inferior in nothing to those of our sisters in China. The heroic commitment of women workers of Cambodia to the establishment of independent trade unions and their struggle for increases in wages have already been a model for a number of years. In the province of Phnom Penh, our class sisters have led an enormous labor strike overwhelming composed of women, who account for nearly 90% of the textile workers there. Throughout the country, supporting strikes have included hundreds of thousands of workers. While the bourgeois Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has been supportive of the strikes, the former Stalinist, bourgeois party Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has been in power for more than three decades, has been instrumental in attempting to crush them with brutal force by the police, and has at times even called in the military. Even with the CNRP’s official favoring of the strike, they have cynically tried to use it for their own ends, and thus a central task of our sisters in Cambodia is to fight for the independence of the trade unions from these bourgeois parties. This can only be done by our heroic sisters’ building a revolutionary workers' party. In this way, the labor disputes can be extended and augmented with creation of self-defense units against the violence of the regime, towards the calling of a general strike, and the beginning of a revolutionary uprising against the capitalist government under the leadership of the new revolutionary party. Our sisters have already achieved much in the course of their recent struggles. With much spilt blood and many deaths, our sisters, who fought alongside their class brothers, have forced the government to increase the minimum wage. However this, in turn, brought many corporations to leave the country and relocate their production facilities, demonstrating that the sole aim of the imperialist parasites it to bleed the country and to leave it at the earliest possible opportunity. Only a victorious armed struggle and the forming of a socialist workers and peasant government can stop this by expropriating the factories and placing them under control of the workers. It is the task of the international labor movement to call for solidarity strikes with our sisters and brothers in Cambodia, in order to help bring about the expropriation of the corporations and put their factories under control of all the workers.
4. The migration of companies from Cambodia and other parts of the Asia is closely linked with the construction of new factories on the African continent. With the emergence of Russia and China as new imperialist powers, intense competition has emerged among all the imperialist powers, both East and West. China, in particular, began years ago investing in impoverished, sub-Saharan Africa and is now the largest investor there. Based on China’s own experience, it was clear to these new imperialists that the younger proletariat in Asia can also organize rapidly and thereby cut into Chinese profits. Accordingly, China established a foothold in many other countries, like Ethiopia, with the aim of developing the economic powerhouse of Africa for their own profit. In Ethiopia, wage costs are minimal even compared with those of China, at times constituting only 10% of what the Chinese capitalists would have to pay to workers in their own homeland. Naturally, very little Chinese capital is invested in safety for the Ethiopian workers. As a result, almost 30% of Ethiopian textile factory workers are injured by machinery in the course of their working lives, while an additional 20% are hurt in other ways in the workplace. At the same time, the very young Ethiopian proletariat is historically unused to the new relations of imperialist exploitation, and the physical capacity of workers there averages 8 hours per day, while the Chinese capitalists are accustomed by to getting 11 hours of work per day out of their workers at home. Consequently, Ethiopian workers are drilled and harassed by their foreign bosses. Still, given the mass unemployment and poverty in Ethiopia, factory jobs are highly sought after. To make matters worse, the country of our Ethiopian sisters and brothers is currently suffering from the worst drought in 50 years, one which, by mid–year, is expected to affect 15 million persons. When there was a severe drought in the country 30 years ago, a million people died. But that drought was nothing compared to the present one. Added to all this, Ethiopia pays exorbitant interest on its foreign debts to the imperialist states. Therefore, in full solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, as well as those across the African continent, and in all semi-colonies around the world, we call for an immediate and full cancellation of all debt! In addition, we call upon the international labor movement to organize immediate humanitarian aid for drought-stricken Ethiopia. It is yet just another perversion of imperialism that our class brothers and sisters must die from thirst while, in some countries, drinking water is used to flush toilets!
5. In addition to the torment of exploitation fomented by the imperialists in the factories, the human suffering due to the problems caused by increasing climate change and environmental disasters (which are ultimately the responsibility of the Number 1 polluters, namely the multinationals), our sisters in Africa are also suppressed because of their sex. In Burundi, every day opponents of the current government are abducted, killed and their corpses are left lying somewhere. Women are often brutally raped beforehand. Rape, in addition to other forms of sexual violence, is a special burden that is imposed on us women against our wills. And it’s not only our sisters in Burundi who are suffering.
6. Gang rape of women in India regularly takes place and these crimes are so dramatic in their brutality that they often lead to death of the victim. There is hardly a woman of lower classes in India who has not suffered rape during her lifetime. However, the mainstream media have only begun to show indignation in recent years, making the phenomena known to the public following rapes directed against wealthy women. But long before their widespread report, our Indian sisters began to organize. They have shown us what self-defense units can actually look like, and they have become ubiquitous; like the Gulabi Gang (Pink Saris) which was created ten years ago and was founded by the then 45-year old Sambat Pal Devi, a member of the lowest caste. Since then more than 150,000 women have joined this self-defense unit! Our militant sisters, have adopted pink for the color of their garments, because none of the previously existing parties had claimed that color for itself. The independence of the self-defense units from all the bourgeois parties is an important and correct approach taken by our Indian sisters. Since Sambat Pal Devi has become a supporter of the Congress Party, it is said that this has led to a split in the movement. The Pink Saris arm themselves with iron-tipped sticks, called Lathi, not only against rapists, but also against corrupt policemen and members of higher castes that exhibit violence towards members of lower castes. They are also fighting for their own movement’s independence from bourgeois influence, and are supported by poor women in cities and rural areas. These are the women who have become the heart and soul of a new revolutionary party in India. Without such a party, in the long run the movement cannot possibly implement its self-proclaimed political goal: Stopping any injustice against the poor and weak.
7. The movement of the Gulabi Gang demonstrates the potential for building a revolutionary women's movement in India. But it could also serve as a shining example for our sisters in today’s Mexico. For a decade now, they have experienced a growing wave of violence and murder. Women are kidnapped, raped and often dumped dead in the middle of the desert. Many of the surviving victims recover only after a very long time. This murderous violence against women, in this particularly heinous form, must be stopped immediately. Self-defense groups for our sisters in Mexico, like that of the Pink Saris in India, could be a lifesaver. In addition, every case of rape or other form of physical and sexual violence against any woman must be thoroughly investigated and solved. A jury, consisting of representatives of the workers' movement and the persons concerned must address each such incident, with the goal of bring the perpetrators to justice. Our victimized sisters and their families should be given the option of restorative justice for the atrocities they have suffered.
8. "Ni una Menos!" ("Not one less!") is the slogan called out by hundreds of thousands of our sisters in mass demonstrations against femicide in Argentina. In May 2015, a 14-year old woman was brutally murdered, as happens to hundreds of other women each year in Argentina. As in Mexico, our sisters in Argentina have bitter experience with brute force, often resulting in femicide. Death at the hands of the partner or by family members and friends is a particularly common form of femicide in Latin America. Every one of our sisters must be protected against such cruelty. In every neighborhood, in every village, in the workplace and educational institutions, women must have the ability to conduct meetings. The cohesion and mutual protection thus created, the awareness and the timely warnings of violence in the immediate environment can literally save hundreds of lives!
9. However, the worst killers of us women are by far the major imperialist powers and their stooges, the dictatorships. Our heroic sisters in Egypt are fighting relentlessly against the brutal dictatorship of General al-Sisi, which sends even small children to trial. This dictatorship was inaugurated in a coup on July 3, 2013, and was hailed by the US and the imperialist countries of the EU. A month later, an incomprehensible massacre was perpetrated by the military dictatorship, in which in a single day, more than 3,000 of our brothers and sisters were slaughtered. Tens of thousands of people are suffering torture and humiliation in the prisons of the military regime and are usually judged in summary proceedings. In show trials conducted in the course of a single day, hundreds of people were sentenced to death, sometimes without even having had the opportunity to consult with a lawyer. Yet, for this dictator and mass murderer, al-Sisi, the imperialist powers have rolled out the red carpet. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel met with al-Sisi and his delegation last year in Berlin. While our sisters were rotting in the prisons of the Egyptian regime, those who had not already lost their lives in the struggle against the dictatorship, Angela Merkel courted the mass murderer al-Sisi! At the same time, someone like Alice Schwarzer, a leading representative of bourgeois feminism, makes statements against immigrants and Muslims and plays right into the hands of the racist PEGIDA movement. What striking examples of middle class, iconic women, “epitomes of feminism,” who have absolutely nothing at all to do with the real interests of women! What excellent examples of how little feminism has to do with women's liberation! The Angela Merkels and Alice Schwarzers of the world are one with the mass murderers in the world! They are, therefore, not our sisters, but the greatest enemies of us working women!
10. Just as our sisters in Egypt heroically fight against the dictatorship of al-Sisi, so our sisters in Syria are fighting against the dictator Assad. Yet they are forced to simultaneously fight the imperialist intervention by Russia and its Iranian henchmen on the one hand, and the US and the EU and their stooges on the other, if in the end they do not want to lose their home to the imperialist predators.
11. No list of heroic anti-imperialist struggles would be complete without mentioning our sisters in Palestine. More and more of our sisters are actively organizing in the resistance against the apartheid state of Israel. The vital Third Intifada cannot be set in motion without their courageous efforts! They are the brightest models in a relentless struggle for justice and freedom, in the struggle for a free, red Palestine!
12. On this March 8 we recall each of the heroic struggles of all our sisters worldwide. We remember the history of March 8 as a day of battle, which began in the self-sacrificing struggle of working women more than 100 years ago. We remember the fighters and all those sisters who are today oppressed and exploited. Like the millions of fleeing persons looking for a new home in Europe. We want to open the gates to them, shout out support for them, and welcome them. We intend to do so not only today, but fight even more resolutely for this tomorrow. Against exploitation in the factories, suffered by our sisters in China, Cambodia and around the world; Against the brutal apartheid, suffered by our Palestinian sisters at the hands of the imperialist state of Israel; Against the beast of imperialism that exploits not only us working women, in city and country, but also our class brothers every day; Against murderous racism, not only against refugees and migrants but also against our black brothers and sisters in the US and elsewhere; Against the war machine of the imperialists whose economies and greed pave the path to our subjugation by crushing our bodies. Our history is one of struggle, and so is our present. We will yet retrieve every tear, every drop of sweat and blood. We will fight for a future in which the exploitation and oppression is nothing but a shadow of the past; a future in which capitalism and its final stage, imperialism, is nothing but a chapter in the book of history; a future in which our children's children will proudly speak of the revolutionaries, women and men, who together moved forward to build a world revolutionary party and courageously stood up to the imperialist beast; who organized the greatest event in the history of mankind – the world socialist revolution; those who gave humankind a future of socialism in which we women are free at last.