On the 8th of March, International Working Women’s Day is celebrated. This celebration has been watered down and stripped of its history by liberal feminists and the ruling class.
Marxists understand the important role that women have played throughout the history of socialist movements. Here in Ireland, seeing the importance of the liberation of women and its intrinsic connection to socialism, James Connolly went to Belfast to organise women in the textile industry. In 1913 he wrote: “Irish men have proven themselves to be heroes in fighting to abolish the tyranny of landlordism. Irish women fought heroically in the same cause.”
While women were allowed to join the Irish Citizen Army, they were not allowed to join the Irish Volunteers. In 1913 a group of women met at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin and discussed the possibility of forming a women’s organisation to aid in the national liberation movement. On 2 April 1914 a meeting chaired by Agnes O’Farrelly officially founded Cumann na mBan, and in 1916 they played a crucial role in the rising.
Constance Markievicz, who was a member of both the Citizen Amy and Cumann na mBan, would go on to be the first woman elected to the British Parliament and minister for labour in the Irish Republic.
While Ireland has a rich history of women playing important roles, the October Revolution also could not have been accomplished without the women, who are overshadowed by the likes of Lenin and Stalin. The October Revolution, which led to the formation of the socialist republic of Russia and later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was started by tens of thousands of women, who marched in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) against the First World War and food shortages resulting from the war.
On the oppression of women Lenin said: “You cannot draw the masses into politics without drawing in the women as well. For under capitalism the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed. They remain, firstly, deprived of some rights because the law does not give them equality with men and secondly they remain in household bondage.” To combat this double oppression Lenin did not wait for the October Revolution to bring an end to it. The central committee of the Communist Party brought in new laws. However, new laws don’t put an end to household bondage.
In 1920, in the Socialist Republic of Russia, areas were set up for communal dining and dish-washing to ease the burden on women in the home. The language used in many writings, such as “working men” and the consistent use of “he” when referring to workers, is inconsistent with the number of instances throughout history of women being crucial to socialist movements. The history of socialist movements is one of women’s liberation and emancipation. The idealist feminism that consists entirely of putting women in CEO and executive positions does nothing for working women, immigrants, refugees, or homeless women. We must combat liberal feminism with a materialist analysis, Marxist feminism.
Connolly himself referred to the position of women by saying, “The worker is a slave to capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave.” However, the development of society is the oppression of women and the establishment of patriarchy. While Connolly is correct in his assessment, the position of women as a slave within the home can be seen as the monogamous family formed. This monogamy, however, was enforced on women, as men would live with a moral blemish. As Engels writes in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, the family has a “specific character of monogamy for the woman only, but not for the man.”
Through antiquity, feudalism, and now capitalism, the patriarchal family model has pushed women into unpaid work in the house and under capitalism to also take on paid work outside the house, although paid less than men. We Marxists, or Marxist feminists, must look at the historical development of society, and the development of the family, and come to answers on the emancipation of women through the analysis.
The burden of this cannot be solely placed on women. Men have historically played the part of the oppressors of women, as white people have played the part of the oppressors of people of colour. We must share the responsibility of emancipation through solidarity with all oppressed people. Within unions, left-wing organisations and the party we must lead the way and set an example collectively on how women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ and all oppressed should be accepted. As Lenin put it, “Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse.”
INTERNATIONAL WORKING WOMEN’S DAY, 2023
Programme of events
Online interview with Luna Oi (Viet Nam)
11 March, 11:30 a.m.
Self-defence for women
(In conjunction with Red Phoenix)
11 March (afternoon)
Cultural event, poetry etc. with La Mansarda and Small Trans Library
Full details of all events: