International Women’s Day: Women Lead Class Struggle vs. Capitalism’s Special Oppression

March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), symbolized by the 1908 New York City march of 15,000 women demanding better pay and shorter hours. In 1910 the Socialist Second International held the first International Women’s Conference and established International Women’s Day. It has since celebrated many women’s struggles — including the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the women’s march to the municipal Duma (council) in Czarist Russia in early 1917, which helped spark the Bolshevik Revolution.

Internationally, workers will commemorate this month and day to honor the struggle against the special oppression of women — sexism — and the capitalist system that promotes it, although the bosses and their media will use it to pay lip-service to women’s struggles. We must recognize that this special oppression is an integral and necessary part of capitalism, which must be fought every day, not just on International Women’s Day or during Women’s History month.

Fight to smash capitalism in order
to smash sexism

Exploitation of women hasn’t always existed nor have conditions become better; it has simply changed in form. In primitive communal society men and women’s labor was valued equally. In early class society, women were primarily unpaid domestic workers. As capitalism’s needs shifted during industrialization, super-exploitation of women in factories began. The ruling class uses the special oppression of women — like racism and nationalism — as a tool to oppress the entire working class.

There are many ruling-class ideologies that claim to be anti-sexist, like Feminism. Feminism blames men for sexism and wants women workers to unite with their female bosses. The bosses misdirect many women workers’ anger against the ruling class and towards men, a divide-and-conquer strategy. For men, instead of fighting sexism and revolting against the bosses, they’re taught to take their anger out on women.

As communists, we fight for the unity of women and men on and off the job to smash the bosses!

Today, women are super-exploited globally, attacked by the U.S. racist destruction of welfare (especially black and Latino women); paid $2 a day in China’s vast manufacturing economy and in Mexico’s maquiladoras; subjected to mass rapes in the Congo’s wars for diamonds and resources; victims of extreme anti-woman bias of Islamic and Christian fundamentalists; and murdered, raped and forced into prostitution in the U.S. imperialist war in Iraq.

Women already make up more than half of the super-exploited sub-contracted manufacturing jobs in the U.S., while remaining the principal childcare givers. Women are still paid less than men for similar work, keeping all workers’ wages lower. The majority of women workers receive no wages for their work. Unpaid housework (cleaning, shopping, cooking) and child-rearing is also essential to producing the labor power that creates profit for the bosses and the next generation of workers. Because this work is done in the home and is seen as “natural” for women, it is not seen as profitable for the capitalists.

Capitalist culture — music, poetry, movies, television — is more profitable because it perpetuates capitalist sexist gender roles that help maintain the system. “Successful” women in entertainment like singer Rihanna and singer Shakira promote near-nudity and sexual availability as qualities of powerful women. In Rihanna’s video for her song “Hard,” she wears a Kevlar and an open shirt with tape covering her breasts, straddling tanks, and ordering soldiers to fire their weapons in the desert, presumably the Middle East. The idea is that imperialist war and women-controlled sexism are something to be proud of. Shakira once refused to wear high heels but in her recent video for her song “La Loba/She Wolf” she rolls around in a nude-colored bodysuit in a cage. The idea is that she must emerge at night as a she-wolf because her boyfriend/husband is boring and controlling.

The special oppression of women divides the working class, and dehumanizes women. Economic exploitation makes women a commodity, leading to degrading them as sexual objects and prostitutes, victims of physical violence, rape and enslavement worldwide. We must ensure more woman — especially as soldiers and workers — take the lead in the effort to destroy the system that created and maintains the special oppression of women, racism and its exploitation of all workers. Only by black, Latin, Asian and white men and women workers uniting can the entire working class end the oppression of capitalism. Communism is the only system that values women as workers and allows all workers to reach their full potential. JOIN US!

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU: Write to CHALLENGE ( with your stories of anti-sexist class struggle.

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