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Resist Imperialism! Solidarity in the Struggle for Women’s Liberation!

March 2, 2010
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Originally printed in 2008, by Grassroots Women
www3.telus.net/grassrootswomen/index.html

Anti-imperialist roots of IWD

One hundred years ago in 1908, in the midst of turbulent political and economic times prior to World War I, over 20,000 women garment workers staged a general strike for 13 cold, New York winter, weeks. Their call: better pay and working conditions. Inspired by these Italian and Jewish immigrant garment workers, socialist and feminist delegates to the 1910 International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen called for an annual International Women’s Day.

For the next 40 years, International Women’s Day was a day of militant demands and actions.

In 1911, 148 garment workers, mostly immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. The women had led a massive strike by garment workers and were struggling to form a union to change their disastrous working conditions. These demands were carried in early International Women’s Day marches.

On March 8, 1917, Russian women went on strike for “Peace, Bread and Land.” With two million Russian soldiers dead and dismal work and living conditions at home, Russian women kicked off a wave of food riots, political strikes and demonstrations that would end in the Russian Revolution.

During World War II, women took to the streets on March 8th to demonstrate against fascist forces which were on the rise throughout Europe.

But during the Cold War era, widespread IWD street demos came to an end in North America and Europe. By the late 1950s, IWD was celebrated among fewer women, often indoors in small meeting halls and homes.

Inspired by revolutionary struggle in the Third World, the anti-war movement, and organizing in North America against national oppression and systemic racism, the “second wave” women’s movement emerged in the 1960s. In places like Vietnam, the Philippines, South Africa, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Iran, Nicaragua, and Northern Ireland, women were armed and fighting for their own liberation in the context of national liberation struggles. After 20 years of quiet, indoor commemorations, IWD was revived as a day of action, solidarity and resistance as imperialism ravaged the lives of women the world over.

Solidarity

Today, for working class women and children, the chaos and crisis caused by imperialism is a daily fact of life. At the same time, the organization and resistance of the people is growing—often with women in the lead as we stand up for ourselves and our sisters, our families and our communities.

Canada was founded as a colonialist white settler state, a subsidiary of the British Empire bent on capitalist expansion. Indigenous women and children have borne the brunt of this ongoing occupation, genocide and repression. Today we stand in solidarity with indigenous women here in the DTES and globally who continue to fight for their land and basic human rights for themselves, their children and their nations. We stand with indigenous women who say No Olympic Games on occupied land and No to full decriminalization of prostitution and legalized Olympic brothels that would only accelerate violence against the most marginalized women, especially indigenous women.
Today, Canada’s political and economic rulers participate in imperialist wars of aggression with Canada’s military budget now reaching $18 billion. Today we stand in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti who expose the lie that war and occupation will liberate them. We say there is no liberation for women under occupation. And we say our liberation back here is bound up with the liberation of women in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti. We know that instead of money going into healthcare, education, childcare, housing – billions are going into the construction of an American style military-industrial complex to make the world safe for Canadian corporations.

The Canadian government also actively supports the ongoing occupation and collective punishment of Palestine. Today we stand in solidarity with the women under siege in the Gaza strip who demand justice and freedom even as they are running out of water, food and electricity, can’t get their kids to the hospital, and face constant bombardment and attack by the Israeli military.

Today Canadian corporations, including many of those mining companies headquartered in downtown Vancouver, continue to plunder the land and resources of the Philippines. They continue to benefit there as well as here from imperialist globalization.

The Canadian government, through “development aid,” also supports the corrupt, militarist Arroyo government that is responsible for the extra-judicial killings of 887 civilians including many women and children since 2001. Meanwhile, decades of chaos caused by deregulation, liberalization, and privatization have forced many Filipinos to migrate. The Philippine government is only too happy to export its people, especially women commodified as supermaids, nannies, and prostitutes, and one corrupt neocolonial government after another pockets their hard-earned remittances. At the same time, the Canadian government is happy to exploit Filipinos, many of them women. They are allowed to enter the country, usually temporarily, through immigration programs designed to offer employers and wealthy families the opportunity to exploit women in low-paying service sector jobs and as live-in-caregivers. Today we stand in solidarity with women of the Philippines who resist this organized state violence as well as economic, political and social exploitation at home and abroad.

Today, the Canadian government eagerly promotes and participates in international, regional and bi-lateral free trade agreements. As people organize against the resulting dispossession and environmental destruction, the Canadian government continues to support the repression and criminalization of people’s movements struggling for land, justice and freedom.

Today we stand in solidarity with women unjustly criminalized for their resistance and women political prisoners who continue to resist from their jail cells.

Today the Canadian government continues to exclude and exploit those who have been displaced from their families and countries by imperialist globalization.

Today we stand in solidarity with immigrants, migrants and refugees who survive in the face of Fortress North America and its detention and deportation machinery. We stand in solidarity with these women and their children who demand the right to live and work here as equals – not third class non-citizens subject to the worst forms of racist and sexist abuse and exploitation. We demand an end to oppressive policies of Citizenship and Immigration Canada whose agents last month raided a women’s shelter in Toronto and arrested a non-status woman and her Canadian born child. We say women in Canada are not liberated when non-status women and their children have to live like hunted animals in this country.

Today the Canadian government continues to attack the rights of working class and marginalized women and children through the trademark tools of imperialist globalization. And daily more and more of us struggle to access food, housing, healthcare, childcare, education and public transit. The BC government in the last few years has cut social spending to welfare, social housing, legal aid and childcare. They refuse to raise the minimum wage, meanwhile the prices of basic commodities and public transit continue to rise. As more women are connecting their experiences, the need to name and resist imperialism grows.

Today on March 8th we take to the streets in solidarity with women worldwide who continue to organize, educate and mobilize for genuine liberation.

Long Live International Women’s Day! Oppose state policies of displacement, deportation, violence and exclusion! Canada out of Afghanistan and Haiti! No Olympics on Stolen Land! No Olympic Brothels! End the Seige of the Gaza Strip! · Child care, healthcare, housing and public transit for all!

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