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100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day:

Marking International Women’s Day 2010 in Reaffirming the Rights of All

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day:
Marking International Women’s Day 2010 in Reaffirming the Rights of All

Million Women Rise London March

Holloway Protest for Yarl's Wood Women

Mothers and Midwives "Reclaiming Birth"

History of International Women's Day

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100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day:

Marking International Women’s Day 2010 in Reaffirming the Rights of All

Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), March 8, 2010

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the decision to establish International Women's Day to highlight the struggles of women for their political, economic and social rights, and against imperialist war. On this day, women are affirming that their place in society is as second to none, and are at the forefront in the struggle day in and day out in striving to create a society in which the rights of all are recognised. Women are affirming that the problems and aspirations facing women are not their concern alone, but are the concern of, and have a concrete reality in the context of, the entire society.

Within the Party, as in society as a whole and as a reflection of it, women are also taking a forefront role. They are combating the negative debate about the role of women, that at once denigrates their being and attempts to make them a reserve for the chauvinism and capital-centred ideology of the ruling elite. They are taking a lead in resolving the effects of the anti-social offensive at the workplace, in social programmes, amongst the youth and against the social fabric, as well as working to put culture in its rightful place as part of the whole movement of society for its emancipation. They are thinking seriously about the role of the modern communist party in providing consciousness and organisation to the struggle to advance along the line of march to a new society. They are affirming in the midst of the objective situation facing the working class and people that personal problems need to be taken up as collective problems, and are hard at work in developing discussion as a guide to action in a situation where stress and hysteria are created and promoted in order to make women and the whole of society lose their bearings and succumb to the outlook of the ruling elite that provides no alternative from the values of the status quo.

RCPB(ML) congratulates its women cadres on their stands, and on this occasion sends its heartfelt revolutionary greetings to all women throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and across the world, fighting to defend the rights of all and to take a stand and organise against monopoly right and monopoly dictate.

In contempt of the very principle of International Women’s Day, that women are fighting to create another world and this is what is being celebrated, Gordon Brown’s contribution on IWD was that "Britain’s top companies" must increase the number of women in senior management. The government’s outlook is that it provides the opportunities for women to take their place in the very system that is the source of women’s oppression, of brutal attacks on their rights as human beings and as women, and all that remains is that more women should have the opportunity to become "female entrepreneurs" and be enabled to enforce monopoly dictate. Far from providing rights with a guarantee, the government – the parliamentary parties of all stripes – is cajoling women that the issue is one of juggling career and family, of espousing so-called "family values" which are putting the onus on women to take up a backward and chauvinist ideology, to espouse so-called "British values" and impose them on all women, both in this country and abroad.

The people are being distanced increasingly from political power, their collectives, including those of women, are being deprived of the right to set the direction for society, and to put an end to imperialist war. The parties in power are denying the forefront role of women in the struggle for increased investment in social programmes, of opposition to the injustices and crimes of war and aggression. This abuse of power from the top is destroying the very fabric of society, fostering violence against women, increasing women’s impoverishment, while the government washes its hands of any social responsibility. The issue of migrant women is an added insult, as witness their treatment in Yarl’s Wood; not to mention that under the guise of upholding "liberation", the status quo launches attacks on women’s identity and their right to be.

The facts about the situation facing women show that violence against women, rapes, gender inequality, and so on have increased this century in Britain. This is an historic injustice, and exposes the lip-service paid to the liberation of women. The whole society must condemn and are condemning these injustices, and must fight for a society fit for all human beings, where children are cared for as born to society, and all the care necessary for children, women, the family are provided by society, as well as education, health care, shelter, freedom from violence, and from war.

Hail International Women’s Day! Hail the struggle of women, of workers, of youth to build a society free of exploitation and oppression, in which women are no longer fair game and in which the full human potential of women, children and men can flourish!

Article Index

Million Women Rise London March

Several thousand women marched through London on Saturday, March 6, calling for an end to male violence against women. There were a very wide range of groups represented. The march started along London's major shopping street, Oxford Street, before going through Piccadilly Circus and on to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

The march, on the Saturday nearest to International Women's Day – March 8th – was organised by a coalition of individual women and representatives from the Women’s Voluntary and Community Sector, and it aimed to "celebrate and honour women’s activism, courage and achievements and continued struggle against global male violence in all its forms".

Million Women Rise is a part of a wider international movement to end violence against women, and the flyer handed out on the march presented the reality of violence for women in Britain and internationally:

In this country, almost one in four women are said to have experienced some form of sexual assault and on average two women are murdered each week by a partner or former partner. A third of all teenage girls who are in relationships suffer unwanted sexual acts and one in four are the subject of actual physical violence. Trafficking is a large-scale global industry, with two million girls between the ages of five and 15 being sold into sex slavery each year. Lack of health provision is also a major problem; one woman dies in pregnancy for every minute of the year, and most of these deaths are preventable.

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Holloway Protest for Yarl's Wood Women

More than 50 people protested at Holloway Prison, London, on Wednesday evening, March 3, against the holding of five women from Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre without trial or charge and to support the women at Yarl's Wood in the fourth week of their hunger strike against the degrading conditions and inhumane treatment there. Three of the women are in Holloway, one in solitary confinement, and two are at Bronzefield Prison in Ashford, Middlesex.

On Tuesday this week, the 19 women at Yarl's Wood confirmed that they were still continuing their hunger strike. They reacted angrily to statements by Home Office Minister Meg Hillier that the women refusing food were buying food from the shop in the centre and getting it from visitors. As well as denying the claims they have also pointed out that visitors are not permitted to bring food into the centre.

The protesters also called for an end to the use of detention and in particular for the detention of women with children which amounts to child abuse. They also want SERCO guards at the centre to be prosecuted for their racist and sexual abuse.

The protesters blocked the vehicle entrance to the prison, and one SERCO prison van that arrived during the demonstration quickly backed out of the driveway and went away.

The Home Office and SERCO have issued denials of the allegations of violent attacks, beatings, victimisation and abuse at the centre, but as well as the many consistent allegations made by over 50 women in the centre, there are also mobile phone images of some of the injuries, and women who have been released since the main incident have given interviews.

Journalists and MPs have been asking questions about the mistreatment of detainees at the centre, and lawyers have attempted to challenge the treatment of detainees as a breach of their human rights under European Convention articles 3, 5 and 8. Those who have seen the system, either as detainees or as visitors – even on carefully conducted tours – have been scandalised by what they have seen. It is an indictment of the authorities in Britain that these women who have fled from traumatic situations in their own countries are treated in such an inhuman fashion in this country.

Article Index

Mothers and Midwives "Reclaiming Birth"

More than a thousand people, many with pushchairs and young children, marched over Westminster Bridge in London on Sunday afternoon, March 7, to a rally at Downing Street. Beginning from Geraldine Harmsworth Park, the "Reclaiming Birth Rally" supported the Albany Midwifery Practice and called for the nation-wide adoption of similar case loaded midwifery services which would look after women from conception past birth as a right rather than a privilege for a lucky few.

The Albany Midwifery Practice based in Peckham, one of the most highly deprived areas of England, was widely regarded as a model of best practice and a centre of excellence in NHS midwifery for the support that it gave to women throughout pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period, encouraging women to make informed choices about how and where they give birth.

Recently King's College Hospital terminated their contract following a critical report from the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE) which King's claim showed "serious shortcomings" over one aspect of their work, forcing the centre to close down. Others see the decision as an attack on alternative ways of maternity care that provide better overall outcomes and better meet the needs of women.

Overall the Albany achieved perinatal mortality rates of 4.9/1000 – considerably below the national average and much lower than the 11.4/1000 for Southwark Borough where it is located. Only around 1 in 7 of women in their care gave birth by Caesarean section, compared to 1 in 4 for King's College Hospital, and almost half (46.7%) chose to give birth at home, compared to one mother in sixteen (6.2%) in the borough as a whole. And while nationally roughly one mother in three continues to breastfeed their babies, the figure at Albany was more than three quarters. The NCT (National Childbirth Trust), IM UK (Independent Midwives UK) and others have expressed concern over King's action and the rally called for an independent review of the critical report and an inquiry into the decision to terminate the Albany contract, with the findings to be made public.

The rally was supported by AIMS (Association For Improvements In The Maternity Services), ARM (Association of Radical Midwives), the NCT, and Albany Mums. It also called for a real change in maternity care across the country, with the replacement of the current doctor-led hospital services, which are so often unsupportive and even traumatic for mothers, by case-loaded midwifery services following the example given by Albany and other similar practices. These provide a much more comprehensive service with better information and fuller support for women, including more midwives, at no greater cost than the current system.

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Centenary of Resolution to Establish International Women's Day:

History of International Women's Day

Janice Murray, The Marxist-Leninist Daily, March 5, 2010 - No. 48 – Supplement

This year marks the centenary of the resolution passed by the Second International Conference of Socialist Women held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910 establishing International Women's Day. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the more than 100 women delegates from 17 countries attending, among whom were the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament. The resolution was put forward by German communist Clara Zetkin who had first proposed the idea of an annual demonstration in support of working women and women's rights at the First International Conference of Socialist Women held in Stuttgart, Germany in 1907.

This Second International Conference reiterated the principles adopted at the First International Conference of Socialist Women on the question of women's suffrage. These principles established the framework for the resolution to establish an International Women's Day that focused on the question of women's political rights.

The document states in part:

"The socialist woman's movement of all countries repudiates the limited Woman's Suffrage as a falsification of and insult to the principle of the political equality of the female sex. It fights for the only living concrete expression of this principle: the universal woman's suffrage which is open to all adults and bound by no conditions of property, payment of taxes, or degrees of education or any other qualifications, which exclude members of the working class from the enjoyment of the right. They carry on their struggle not in alliance with the bourgeois Women's Righters, but in alliance with the Socialist Parties, and these fight for Woman's Suffrage as one of the demands which from the point of view of principle and practice is most important for the democratisation of the suffrage."

Stating that the socialist parties in all countries are "bound to fight with energy for the introduction of Woman's Suffrage" it says that the socialist women's movement must take part in the struggles organised by the socialist parties for the democratisation of the suffrage, while at the same time ensuring that within this fight the "question of the Universal Woman Suffrage is insisted upon with due regard to its importance of principle and practice".

The resolution to establish International Women's Day states,

"In order to forward political enfranchisement of women it is the duty of the Socialist women of all countries to agitate according to the above-named principles indefatigably among the labouring masses; enlighten them by discourses and literature about the social necessity and importance of the political emancipation of the female sex and use therefore every opportunity of doing so. For that propaganda they have to make the most especially of elections to all sorts of political and public bodies."

The delegates resolved,

"In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade organisations of the proletariat in their country the socialist women of all nationalities have to organise a special Woman's Day, which in first line has to promote Women Suffrage propaganda. This demand must be discussed in connection with the whole women's question according to the socialist conception of social things."

A "Woman's Day" had been organised the previous year in the United States, on the last Sunday in February 1909, by the National Women's Committee of the American Socialist Party marked by demonstrations for women's rights. Women's suffrage along with the rights of women workers, particularly in the garment trade, were the focus of these demonstrations. This Woman's Day honoured the thousands of women involved in the numerous labour strikes in the first years of the twentieth century in many cities, including Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. This was a period when women entered the labour force in their thousands and alongside working men fought to organise collectively and to improve their brutal conditions of work.

Later in 1909, needle-trade workers in New York City -- 80 percent of whom were women -- walked off their jobs and marched and rallied for union rights, decent wages and working conditions in the "Uprising of 20,000". The work stoppage was reportedly referred to as the "women's movement strike" and continued from November 22, 1909 to February 15, 1910. The Women's Trade Union League provided bail money for arrested strikers and large sums for strike funds during the work stoppage.

Early Celebrations of International Women's Day

March 19, 1911 was the date set for the first International Women's Day by the Second International Conference of Socialist Women and, implementing their resolution, rallies held in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on that day were attended by more than one million women and men. "The vote for women will unite our strength in the struggle for socialism" was the call of these rallies. In addition to their demand for the right to elect and be elected, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job. A woman socialist wrote at that time:

"The first International Women's Day took place in 1911. Its success exceeded all expectation. Germany and Austria on Working Women's Day was one seething, trembling sea of women. Meetings were organised everywhere -- in the small towns and even in the villages halls were packed so full that they had to ask male workers to give up their places for the women.

"This was certainly the first show of militancy by the working woman. Men stayed at home with their children for a change, and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings. During the largest street demonstrations, in which 30,000 were taking part, the police decided to remove the demonstrators' banners: the women workers made a stand. In the scuffle that followed, bloodshed was averted only with the help of the socialist deputies in Parliament."

The following year, women in France, the Netherlands and Sweden joined in actions marking International Women's Day. In the period leading up to the declaration of World War I, the celebration of International Women's Day opposed imperialist war and expressed solidarity between working women of different lands in opposition to the national chauvinist hysteria of the ruling circles. For example, in Europe International Women's Day was an occasion when speakers from one country would be sent to another to deliver greetings.

Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913 (on the Julian calendar, which corresponded to March 8 on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere), under conditions of brutal Tsarist reaction. There was no possibility of women organising open demonstrations but, led by communist women, they found ways to celebrate the day. Articles on International Women's Day were published in the two legal workers' newspapers of the time, including greetings from Clara Zetkin and others.

An essay written in 1920 by a woman communist activist at that time described the 1913 celebration:

"In those bleak years meetings were forbidden. But in Petrograd, at the Kalashaikovsky Exchange, those women workers who belonged to the Party organised a public forum on 'The Woman Question'. Entrance was five kopecks. This was an illegal meeting but the hall was absolutely packed. Members of the Party spoke. But this animated 'closed' meeting had hardly finished when the police, alarmed at such proceedings, intervened and arrested many of the speakers.

"It was of great significance for the workers of the world that the women of Russia, who lived under Tsarist repression, should join in and somehow manage to acknowledge with actions International Women's Day. This was a welcome sign that Russia was waking up and the Tsarist prisons and gallows were powerless to kill the workers' spirit of struggle and protest."

Women in Russia continued to celebrate International Women's Day in various ways over the ensuing years. Many involved in organising landed themselves in Tsarist prisons as the slogan "for the working women's vote" had become an open call for the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy.

The first issue of "The Woman Worker" (Rabotnitsa), a journal for working class women, was published in 1914. That same year, the Bolshevik Central Committee decided to create a special committee to organise meetings for International Women's Day. These meetings were held in the factories and public places to discuss issues related to women's oppression and to elect representatives from those who had participated in these discussions and the resulting proposals to work on the new committee.

International Women's Day 1917 in Russia

In Russia, International Women's Day 1917 was a time of intense struggle against the Tsarist regime. Workers, including women workers in textile and metal working industries, were on strike in the capital city and opposition to Russia's participation in the imperialist war raging in Europe was growing. On March 8 (February 23 on the Julian calendar), women in their thousands poured onto the streets of St. Petersburg in a strike for bread and peace. The women factory workers, joined by wives of soldiers and other women, demanded, "Bread for our children" and "The return of our husbands from the trenches". This day marked the beginning of the February Revolution, which led to the abdication of the Tsar and the establishment of a provisional government.

The provisional government made the franchise universal, and recognised equal rights for women. Following the October 1917 Revolution, the Bolshevik government implemented more advanced legislation, guaranteeing in the workplaces the right of women to directly participate in social and political activity, eliminating all formal and concrete obstacles which previously had meant the subordination of their social and political activity and their subservience to men. New legislation on maternity and health insurance was proposed and approved in December 1917. A public insurance fund was created, with no deductions from workers wages, that benefited both women workers and male workers' wives. It meant that women were now treated second to none as neither they nor their children were dependent on spouses and fathers for their well-being.

After 1917

March 8 as International Women's Day became official in 1921 when Bulgarian women attending the International Women's Secretariat of the Communist International proposed a motion that it be uniformly celebrated around the world on this day. March 8 was chosen to honour the role played by the Russian women in the revolution in their country, and through their actions, in the struggle of women for their emancipation internationally.

The first IWD rally in Australia was held in 1928. It was organised by the communist women there and demanded an eight-hour day, equal pay for equal work, paid annual leave and a living wage for the unemployed.

Spanish women demonstrated against the fascist forces of Gen. Francisco Franco to mark International Women's Day in 1937. Italian women marked IWD 1943 with militant protests against fascist dictator Benito Mussolini for sending their sons to die in World War II.

In this way, since 1917, International Women's Day has been both a day of celebration of women's fight for their rights and the rights of all and a day to militantly affirm the opposition of women to imperialist war and aggression. Its spirit has always been that to win the rights of women and the fight for security and peace, women must put themselves in the front ranks of the fight and of governments which represent these demands.

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