APPEAL FROM RUBINA JAMIL
Dear Comrades, Friends, Sisters and Brothers,
As you all know, by celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2017, we commemorate and pay tribute to those brave women who took up the struggle for bread, peace, and freedom — and also for an end to the war — in Russia in 1917. We all are proud that women workers were in the leadership of those struggles.
Comrades, as a woman activist and trade unionist in Pakistan, I would like to celebrate with you the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which remains a great benchmark for all the working class, for all the peasants, for all the oppressed peoples, for all the youth and women workers. The Russian Revolution remains a great inspiration to all of us.
Today, we women are victims of violence by the State, in our homes, and by the wars. In my country, Pakistan — and also in Afghanistan, India, and Sri Lanka — women are facing the worst kinds of violence. Thousands of women are killed in terrorists attacks — a terror that imperialism is responsible for – at the same time they are victims of traditional and social norms only applicable to women, as the patriarchal and feudalistic system makes them third-rate citizens of society. Women also face heightened violence at home and in the work place.
So let us join together to break all those chains, and let us celebrate March 8th with great zeal and raise our voices against all forms of discrimination, exploitation and injustice. Let us join together to pay great tribute to the working women in Russia who, in 1917, rose up to demand bread, peace and freedom.
I call on all women the world over to mobilise massively to fight for peace and to break all our chains of bondage. Let us celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, side by side with all workers, by raising our voices to say, “Women do not want war! They want peace and freedom!”
I call upon you to join with me in setting up an International Committee to organise these rallies and actions on International Women’s Day against war, exploitation and injustice – in continuity with the Mumbai Conference Against War, Exploitation and Precarious Labour on 18-20 November 2016.
Let us join together in the struggle – side by side — to put an end to violence, war and exploitation.
Long live the working class!
Long live international solidarity!
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Initial List of International Supporters of this Appeal:
BELGIUM: Françoise Cambie, worker; Laetitia Coucke, student activist; Nathalie Leloup, trade unionist; Monique Lermusiaux, retired trade unionist; Laura Moraga Moral, teacher unionists; Claire Thomas, teacher trade union delegate. FRANCE: Julie Beguerie, teacher, feminist trade union and political activist; Katel Corduant, trade unionist; Christel Keiser, city council member, POID; Christelle Leclerc, trade unionist; Geneviève Marchal, trade unionist, Collective of Widows and Wife of Mineworkers; Isabelle Michaud, city council member, PCF; Marie-José Montout, activist for the defense of medical gynecology; Marie-Luce Mouly, activist for a break with the European Union and the 5th Republic. GERMANY: Sidonie Kellerer, Academic (Köln). GREECE: Vassiliki Frangou, writer (Athens), Eva Kallitsi, student (Athens); Maryse Le Lohé, activist in Laiki Enotita (Athens); Sotiria Lioni (Naples). HUNGARY: Anyiszonyan Klàra, retiree, chemistry; Somi Judit, editor of Munkas Hirlap. ITALY: Valeria Busicchia, teacher; Monica Grilli, teacher trade union delegate; Elisabetta Raineri, teacher trade union delegate. MEXICO: Liliana Plumeda (Mexicali), Alejandra Rivera (Tijuana). RUSSIA: Aliona Glazkova, activist and left-wing journalist. UNITED STATES: Colia Lafayette Clark, National Coordinator Judicial Violence Symposium, civil rights activist; Melina Juarez, student; Itzel Calvo Medina, immigrant rights activist; Millie Phillips, Socialist Organizer.
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8 MARCH 1917
By Jean-Jacques Marie, historian and labour activist
On the morning of 23 February 1917 (March 8th in the Gregorian calendar, International Women’s Day), the women textile workers from several factories in the Vyborg district of Petrograd, fed up with having to spend hours waiting in breadlines for bread that had become more and more expensive and more and more rare, gathered in a meeting and decided to demonstrate against the high cost of living and the shortage of bread.
They went on strike and adopted a resolution asking for the support of the male metal workers of the neighbouring Ericson factory, sending them a delegation carrying the resolution. And yet the Bolshevik in charge of the district, Kayurov, had made a tour of the factories the very day before “forbidding” (according to his own words) “any agitation for a direct call to strike”. Also — he wrote — he “was outraged by the behaviour of the strikers (…) The night before I had myself called them to order and discipline – then suddenly it was a strike. There was, it seems, neither an objective nor a reason, except the breadlines, made up essentially of women and children”.
But given the determination of the strikers, Kayurov convened the Revolutionary-Socialists and the Mensheviks. The three parties having thus assembled, he wrote, “adopted the decision (it must be said, against their will) to support the women workers on strike, thus forcing the hand of the three socialist parties to this end, deciding to ‘get all the workers without exception into the street and taking the lead of the strike and the demonstration’.”
On that day, the initiative of the women textile workers brought about massive demonstrations and a strike. It was the spark. The next day there were 90,000 strikers in Petrograd. The first clashes with the police amplified this movement for the rejection of the whole Tsarist system, bogged down in a war that was ruining the country and had already killed 1.5 million men, without counting another half-million disabled, and had imposed an unbearable existence of privation on the workers, and – for the women, endless hours of queuing in lines that began at four o’clock in the morning before going to work, up until they were relayed by their exhausted children.
Thus began the revolution, a revolution that would, several days later, lead to the founding of the Petrograd Soviet and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas the Second.
The power of the movement was to impose a first (and unique) measure on a provisional government, which called itself democratic but still decided to pursue the war. On 20 July 1917, Russia was the first government in the world to give women the right to vote. Another measure that was just as significant was that a female activist, Maria Spiridonova – who had been sentenced to forced labour for life under the Tsarist regime – was to preside over the 2nd and 3rd congresses of the peasant soviets.
The October Revolution was to be express itself in a set of measures for the emancipation of women, the achievement of which was, clearly, the product of a social revolution. As of 29 October, three days after the forming of a first soviet government, a decree was published that regulated, among other things, the length of the working day for women and children under 16 years of age. This led to the adoption, in 1923, of measures in favour of contraception.
The law of 29 October specifies: “Women and young people less than 16 years of age must not be employed in night labour”. [In 2001, the left majority of the French parliament (the Socialist Party, the French Communist Party and the Greens) under the pressure – pressure that they accepted – of the European Union, re-established night-time employment for women in industry, which reduces women’s life expectancy by seven years.]
In the wake of the decree on the separation of Church and State, the Soviet government did away with religious marriage and recognized the right to divorce. According to the decree of 16 December 1917: “A marriage is dissolved following a request formulated by the two spouses or, failing that, at the request of one of them”. The decree details the measures to be taken concerning the family names that the divorced spouses and their children should bear, the proportion of expenses linked to the raising of the children and any possible alimony to be paid by the husband.
On 20 November 1920, the law recognized abortion under medical control. The Stalinist reaction was to do away with this right in June 1936.
Of course, the downfall caused by the civil war in Soviet Russia — imposed by the upholders of capitalist order, who had been responsible for the butchery of World War I — was to give some of these rights a merely formal aspect for many years. But once codified, they tended little by little to impose themselves in real life – except those that the Stalinist reaction was to rescind, such as the right to abortion, or to make more difficult, such as divorce.
Some of these rights have today been trampled upon in a great many countries of the world. Thus, under pressure from the churches, and especially the Catholic Church, abortion has been forbidden from Mexico to Poland and Ireland, including Brazil. Civil marriage is subject to the same ban from Israel to Saudi Arabia. Here and there, the right to divorce has been replaced by the pure and simple repudiation of the wife by her husband. The legitimate demand of equal pay for equal work has been trampled upon almost everywhere, and replaced by the much-hyped demand from a few hundred privileged women, to be able to sit on corporate boards or to hold as many ministerial positions as men — in order to implement, in common, the policies decided upon by the IMF and the European Union, i.e., by finance capital.
Commemorating the Russian Revolution of February 1917 and evoking the ones that came before and triggered it is thus not only aimed at restoring the truth of a history that has so often been falsified; it is also, and even more importantly, about reviving the ties with a past that is still close and linking them to the urgent necessities of a present that is marked by endless wars and the destructive measures that are destroying the social rights wrenched over the decades by those who live only by selling their labour power.