March 8, 2000
March 8, 2000
March 8th was established as International Working Women’s Day by the international working class and communist movement in the beginning of the 20th century. It was established in memory of the courageous struggle for fixed working hours, by the women working in the factories and workshops of the garment industry in the capitalist countries. It was a struggle that signaled the fact that women had begun to assert their rights as workers. Even though they constituted a small minority of women at that time, women working for wages asserted the collective rights of women, as women and as human beings.
Today, the bourgeoisie treats International Women’s Day as if it has nothing to do with the movement for the emancipation of labour. All the states in the capitalist and imperialist countries have sworn to respect the rights of women, but in reality the vast majority of women remain oppressed by these bourgeois states. Their rights are trampled in the mud on a daily basis.
One fact that cannot be hidden is that it was the world’s first socialist state, the USSR, that extended the right to elect and be elected, and other political rights, to women. With the birth of socialism, women actually experienced what it means to participate as equals in all the affairs of society. With the degeneration of socialism and the final collapse of the Soviet Union, the world revolutionary movement entered a period of retreat, and so did the women’s movement.
In India, the working class movement and the women’s movement both arose in the conditions of the movement to liberate the motherland from colonial slavery. It was a time when women joined the Communist Party in large numbers, and the Communist Party extended assistance to build the fighting organisations of women.
In the period after political independence in 1947, the link between these two great movements became broken in political and organisational terms, especially after the Communist Party of India split into two almost equal halves in 1964. The women’s movement resurfaced in the late 1970s and more visibly in the 1980s. However, in the conditions of a politically and ideologically divided working class and communist movement, the women’s movement has remained fragmented and vulnerable to bourgeois ideological influence.
Within the communist movement, those who conciliate with the social-democratic politics of the Congress Party are promoting the harmful illusion that women can become empowered through the mechanism of parliamentary democracy. In the name of socialism and communism, bourgeois reformist ideas are spread among educated women. The lofty aim of emancipation from all forms of subjugation is replaced with the petty aim of accommodating an elite among women into the existing power structures.
The discontent of women with the existing political system, with the domination of parties that are nothing but electoral machines, has been and continues to be manipulated by the bourgeoisie to promote the virtues of the women’s movement separating itself from the working class and communist movement in the name of "autonomy". ‘Keep away from all political parties’ is the slogan which has been used by the bourgeoisie to deprive the women’s movement of ideology and theory, of organisational cohesion, clarity and unity of vision.
The principal weapon in the bourgeois ideological offensive is the philosophical trend called deconstructionism. This trend breaks down society into little parts and promotes the notion of autonomous movements of the different little parts, independent of the whole. Based on this imperialist philosophical trend, numerous bourgeois sociologists, gender specialists and NGOs have been activated to promote so-called autonomous movements of women of ethnic minorities, women of oppressed castes, of specific tribes and so on. The aim of such autonomous movements is nothing more than to seek accommodation within the existing power structures for a privileged few from among such minorities.
Communists, both women and men, fight for the equality of political rights for all adult members of society, women and men. They recognise the unequal conditions that exist among the people, and the need for the State to extend special assistance to various members of society to enable them to exercise their rights. For instance, child-bearing and nursing women need special care and facilities to enable them to participate as equal members of the polity. Communists wage the struggle for equal rights by demanding that enabling mechanisms be established so that everyone can enjoy and exercise those rights.
The bourgeoisie exploits the unequal social conditions to deny the need for equal rights. In place of a united struggle for the rights of all, the bourgeoisie promotes separate sectarian movements for special privileges and quotas. The striving for special privileges and quotas serves to keep the polity divided, the oppressed masses diverted, and thereby preserves the status quo.
The bourgeois ideological pressure on the women’s movement in India today mainly takes the form of the diversionary debate over reservation of seats for women in various elected and nominated official bodies. It is diversionary precisely because it dissociates the question of empowering women from the question of the renewal of democracy and the political process so as to empower all the hitherto oppressed.
The problems of women are problems facing the whole of society. In turn, the problems of society are problems that face women. The exploitation of labour is the basis for the exploitation of women in the realm of family relations. In turn, the oppression of women serves to oppress the working class. Women who understand the social basis of their oppression join the movement of the working class for the elimination of all forms of exploitation or oppression of one person by another. Such women have joined the Communist Ghadar Party of India in significant numbers, right from its inception.
On the occasion of March 8, 2000, CGPI calls on women to come forward to play their rightful role in the vanguard of social progress. Come forward to become the leaders of the communist movement—the movement for the emancipation of labour from all forms of exploitation and oppression, the movement for the elimination of class distinctions in society!
The 21st century is bound to witness the resurgence of the working class movement and the resurgence of the women’s movement in India. The challenge facing Indian communists is to prepare for the coming storms. An essential component of this preparation is to capture the space for communism among the fighting women of India.