Israel/Occupied Palestine: Long Live International Women’s Day!

The only solution to violence and discrimination–a socialist revolution!

By Hila Slutsky and Boris Hammerschlag, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 8.3.2014, www.thecommunists.net and www.the-isleague.com

 

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. This day, steeped as it is in socialist tradition for more than a century, has two visages. On the one hand, this is a day when women all over the world celebrate the achievements of their struggle for full equality with men and against all forms of discrimination and violence against themselves. On the other hand, this is a day when women look a harsh reality straight in the eye and define their goals for the future – a critical examination which will lead, in the final analysis, to the next social revolution, one which will eliminate all forms of oppression, non-equality, and violence among women and men. This will be the socialist revolution.

The social oppression of women and the struggle against it is not something new. Class-based society, which began with the passage of human societies from a life based on hunting and gathering to a life based on agriculture and the domestication of animals is its most fundamental cause. Furthermore, any time that a technological or social revolution changed the face of class-based society, the ways and means of oppressing women have changed accordingly. Wherever historical or religious books relate how women have at times filled important leadership roles in society, these are but exceptions which attest to the general rule of class-based society, one in which women more usually find themselves exploited and suffering, yet have sometimes mustered the strength to fight back against discrimination, inequality, oppression, and violence.

The Democratic Revolution that came in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the capitalist form of production led, during its Golden Age, to a tremendous breakthrough in the legal and socio-economic status of women. Women and men fought a bitter struggle and achieved a number of important rights for women, such as the right to vote in parliamentary elections, the right to join the labor force, the right to possess private property of their own, and more. But today we live in the age of the decline and decay of capitalism; an era which is witness not only to more and more military conflicts, the spread of mass hunger, revolutions and counter-revolutions, exacerbated environmental destruction, and the retreat of democracy, but also to a steady increase, worldwide, in the oppression and inequality of women in relation to men.

Here, in Israel, from a very young age, women face countless kinds of oppression, the main ones are:

1) Violence – Women suffer physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse from spouses, partners, and relatives. An index including figures up to 2013 revealed that about 200,000 battered women live in Israel and that, during this year, 19 of them were killed. [1] A report examining violence against women, “Women in the Crosshairs,” concludes that one in every three women living in Israel will be assaulted sexually during her lifetime. [2] And if all this is not enough, in Israel, ideas along the lines of “the victim is guilty” in all that’s connected to sexual assault and harassment are well rooted.

While we, women socialist revolutionaries, are keenly aware that the solution to violence is multi-systemic and requires profound changes in education, health, infrastructure, policing, law, and legislation, experience has taught us that we cannot count on such solutions being provided by an establishment controlled by capitalists, the vast majority of which are men, nor on the women chosen by the latter to become part of the same establishment. The capitalist establishment will never bring about significant changes in the quality of life of women workers who are poor or who belong to oppressed ethnic groups such as Palestinians or those of Ethiopian origin. The profound change of a rotten society requires a social revolution. We are involved in the building of a revolutionary party of women and men workers, the goal of which is to lead this revolution. The social protest of 2011 in Israel demonstrated, as did the wave of social revolutions in the Arab countries of our region, that the likelihood of the next social revolution’s being led by women is immensely higher than any time in the past. Join us and take part in this revolution!

But, until then, we can only rely on ourselves, one on the other, as well as on men who prove, not only in words but in deeds, that they want a just and equitable world free of discrimination on grounds of gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or any other criterion. Though nature gave the average man greater physical strength than our own, about 200 years after the start of the industrial revolution, for many years the greater physical strength of males no longer constitutes a decisive advantage over woman. As an immediate solution to the surge of violence against women, we suggest getting organized for self-defence! Together, we must organize and prepare ourselves in the use of various martial arts that provide tools for self-defence independent of physical force, and to arm (yes, arm!) ourselves by any means we see appropriate to ensure our physical safety and the integrity of our bodies and minds. Every man who considers raising his arm to abuse a woman should know that this may be the last time that this arm will be raised. Let’s see, then, how talkback callers will blame the victim.

At the same time, we must fight for a significant increase in government spending on new and already existing women’s centers which will be administered democratically by the women themselves and will be havens for any woman who has fallen victim to violence. In a world in which you can no longer trust the police of the male-dominated establishment, it is the democratically administered women’s self-defence organizations which will provide protection for these centers.

We call on every woman to act, to the extent of her ability, in her place of work, study, and residence for the organization of regular meetings where women can discuss and share with one other their attempts to deal with harassment and violence, as a means of both identifying threatening situations in time and acting collectively to prevent them from actually occurring.

2) Discrimination in hiring and wages – In a press release issued by Israel’s Ministry of Industry in 2011, it was affirmed that 80% of Israeli employers acknowledge that there is discrimination against working mothers, while 70% of them admit that Arabs and Ethiopians face discrimination in the workplace. [3] You can only imagine what your status in the labor market would be as a mother, if you had by chance been born a Palestinian or Ethiopian.

Regarding wages, if you were born a woman, according to the statistics of Israel’s Social Security administration, you receive a salary 17% lower than that earned by a man filling a similar position, with the same qualifications as your own. To those who argue that the gap is narrowing, a report submitted in 2013 replies that the picture remains unchanged during the last decade and that the differential has even gotten worse. The same report also indicates that governmental intervention in this matter, the continuous rise in the educational level of women, and the percent of the women in the work force have absolutely no influence on these statistics.[4]

The conclusion which repeats itself over and again is that we women, who seek an equitable world, cannot rely on the various women’s lobbies, organizations, and political parties which struggle “from within” to change a system in which discrimination against women is structural, inherent, and built-in and who actually have given up on the idea (even while struggling against it) that the elimination of this discrimination is possible. A woman who earns about 30,000 Israeli shekels a month (approximately $US 8,600) is probably not very disturbed by her earning 17% less than a man filling an equivalent position, certainly not when compared to a woman who earns 4, 000 or 5, 000 shekels a month (about $US 1,150-1,430). Women’s leadership from the upper-middle class has failed, is failing, and will always fail to advance equality for women in general, and should step aside to allow poor and oppressed working women to take over this leadership. Naturally, we do not expect them to do so voluntarily.

In the interim, until we take back the reins of the social struggles and lead them to revolutionary paths, we must fight for the establishment of women’s lobbies operating inside militant trade unions, workers’ political parties, and all other workers’ institutions. In addition, we must work for the integration of as many women as possible into the ranks of organized labor. We will fight together to ensure that the contents of pay slips are transparent and anchored in collective agreements, and will no longer allow the signing of any agreement that provides less than equal pay for equal work!

We also demand that the government adopt a policy of giving preference to the employment of women from oppressed and other groups discriminated-against in the labor market, as well as to immediately begin employing them in public works, under the supervision and management of women and men workers.

3) The unequal burden of housework – Studies show that since the early 1980s there hasn't been a significant increase in the participation of men in the US and UK in the performance of household tasks such as cleaning and cooking. [5] One can only assume, to say the least, that the figures for Israel are no better. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Beloved sisters! We have no more illusions! The decay of human society is only a symptom of the decay of the capitalist system, which brought about advances in the goal for women’s equality in all fields, only to come to a screeching halt.

Again, until the socialist revolution, all the material and consciousness-related elements of which are already in place, with the sole exception of a worldwide revolutionary party of women and men (to be the fifth in number, after the rise and fall of four previous ones), we must fight for the following demands:

For the socialization of housework! Including the establishment of laundries, cafeterias, free and subsidized public child care facilities and institutions for children aged 0 to 18 for all residents of this country, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. For the recognition of housework as productive labor, no longer as a private matter of the family, but as a contribution to society at large. No more endless hours of unpaid labor by women in the raising of children and the performance of household chores.

Friends, colleagues, relatives, and other people we meet ask: “Where’s all the money going to come for this?” Our answer: from the expropriation, without remuneration, of the tycoons, banks, and the big capitalists, and the transfer of their businesses to the control of the workers. Bottom line, it’s either them or us; we who have already been robbed of a large part of our lives filling roles of slaves in a world in which there is not a single country in which slavery is legal. Now, from this matter to the next …

4) Trafficking in women and prostitution – For many years the State of Israel led the worldwide tables as a center of trafficking in women and, as in all capitalist countries throughout the world, too many women (even one it too many) are forced to provide sexual services to survive, maintain their position, or somewhat move up the economic ladder (the vast majority belong to the first group). However, as a social phenomenon, prostitution was born alongside class-based society, and is not a unique capitalist phenomenon. Therefore, one cannot expect that this phenomenon will automatically disappear just a minute before the disappearance of class society. The aim of women revolutionary socialists, of course, is to completely eradicate the phenomenon of prostitution. While, non-socialist or non-revolutionary feminists declare that their aim is identical to ours, in this matter our positions differ from theirs regarding the road that will lead us to the achievement of this aim.

In our opinion, as long as the capitalistic system exists, revolutionaries should take a stand against any legislative measures designed to punish women involved in prostitution as the source of their livelihood, including legislation that makes customers criminal offenders. Only in a socialist society can heavy penalties be imposed on pimps and customers, because only in this kind of society is no individual, man or women, left without a proper livelihood suited to his or her talents. Capitalist legislation against prostitution is characterized by not a small amount of hypocrisy, primarily the self-absolution of society from the responsibility to provide for the welfare of women from the weakest of social strata. Every woman who considers herself a feminist and yet supports such laws must take into account that their main victims will be the prostitutes themselves.

We call on all women and men who desire to live in a world free from prostitution to support socialist revolution. However, until this comes about, we call on you to support our demands for services that will protect and provide free health care for those involved in prostitution, for massive public investments in the creation and maintenance of vocational training centers with full pay for attendance and participation. These demands are intended to keep women out of the cycle of prostitution, while incurring as little psychological, economic, and health-related damage as possible. In addition, we call for the organization of all those engaged in prostitution into democratic trade unions. “Yes” to the imposition of heavy punishments on pimps, employers, and traffickers in prostitution; “no” to the criminalization of customers!

 

Who we are

 

We are women belonging to a revolutionary communist organization named the International Socialist League (ISL). This is an organization whose members include men and women, Palestinians and Israelis, and which constitutes the kernel for the founding of a working-class revolutionary party for those living in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The revolution which we aim to foment will create a single, multi–national state under the democratic rule of the working class, between the river and the sea. The ISL is the local branch of a worldwide revolutionary communist organization, the RCIT. The RCIT has similar branches in Austria, South Africa, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan, the United States, Venezuela, and Brazil. The RCIT deals with the building of a worldwide revolutionary party of the working class which will coordinate and lead the struggles of the workers and oppressed populations all over the world against the capitalist system in its various chauvinistic, imperialistic and racist manifestations.

We need strong revolutionary women who want to assume leadership roles in the advance of this organization! If you would like to take part in shaping the organization and implementing its goals, contact us by email at the following address:

INFO@THE-ISLEAGUE.COM

 

[1] http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/90/2696268

[2]http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/law/1.1861236

[3]http://www.moital.gov.il/NR/exeres/CE6F2C06-B5F2-4E66-8003-9ADE2DE77DCC.htm

[4]http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4452689,00.html

[5]http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/world/america/.premium-1.218585