by Corrie Sakaluk
IWD Poster from Soviet Union, 1920
This year on International Women’s Day our Iranian sisters made this call: “In 2008, on the 8th of March we intend to exclaim ‘Enough is enough!’ We no longer want to tolerate the hell created by the patriarchal systems stretching from Kosovo to Iraq, Afghanistan to Philippines, the USA to France, Britain to Turkey and Iran to Pakistan.”
The 8th of March is the date of an historic 1857 protest of women workers in the clothing and textile industries in New York, in demand of better working conditions. These women were attacked and dispersed by police but kept organizing, and established their first labour union two months later.
On March 8th 1908, fifteen thousand women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights.
March 8th also commemorates the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 where over 140 women who worked inside lost their lives, and the rallies held by women across Europe in 1913 that called for peace in the face of a looming war.
The first stage of the Russian Revolution was kick-started by demonstrations marking International Women’s Day in 1917. IWD was made an official holiday in the former Soviet Union shortly after the revolution, and was declared a non-working state holiday in 1965 to honour “the outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and struggle for the peace.”
In 1975, designated as International Women’s Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women’s Day.
Across the world on March 8th this year, there were parades, rallies, and marches to commemorate IWD.
Let us hope that the next 100 years results in changes that can change the still horrible situation of most women in the world today. This situation cannot be fixed until global capitalism is replaced with a more just and equitable political and economic system.
As long as the economy and the fat wallets of the rich people who control the state and the economy require workers, women’s rights will be of minimal concern to the ruling global capitalist class.