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Commentary :: International
08 Mar 2006
March 8th is International Women's Day, a day to reflect on past victories and painstakingly analysis the struggles needed in the future for women's liberation.

Although International Women's Day is marked on 8 March every year this year it is extremely important to take note of where women’s rights stand under the onslaught of domsestic and international reaction. In America women’s rights to abortion access and other reproductive rights are under extreme attack. The recent Supreme Court appointments only emphasis that condition more acutely. Black and other minority women are having a harder time making ends meet due to decreased federal and state support All women are subjected to increased rates of disease and social dislocation and the effects of continuing rise of religious fundamentalism, always a bad sign for women.

Internationally, although International Women’s Day is suppose to be a day for global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women the fate of women in the so-called “Third World ” shows serious problems on the ecomnomic and social fronts. Increases in poverty and preventable diseases show how far we are from an equitable world. Most ominiously, the continued rise of religious fundamentalism, always a deadly propositon for women in those societies, has only decreased the prospects for women’s liberation in the world. All these calamities only highlight the overwhelming need to resolve the struggle for women’s liberation by fighting for a more just social order . Needless to say the continued subjugation of women is only enhanced by the limiting effects of the family. We must provide alternatives organizational forms and expend plenty of money to resolve this insure a vast expansion of women’s intellectual and social creativity. That said, for those unfamilar with the history of this important day here is a thumbnail sketch.

The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid American and Europeon industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. Women from clothing and textile factories staged one such protest on 8 March 1857 in New York City. The garment workers were protesting what they saw as very poor working conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by police. These women nevertheless established their first labor union in the same month two years later.

The first International Women’s Day was held on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. Subsequently, it has commemorated other historical events such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (New York, 1911) where over 140 women lost their lives. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen by the Socialist International and an 'International Women's Day' was established, after submission of a motion by the important German Socialist Clara Zetkin. The following year, IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Furthermore, on the eve of World War I, women across Europe held peace rallies on 8 March 1913.

Demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Russia proved to be the first stage of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik leader Alexandra Kollontai persuaded
Lenin to make it an official holiday, and during the Soviet period it continued to celebrate "the heroic woman worker". However, the holiday quickly lost its political flavour and became an occasion for men to express their sympathy or love for the women around them.. Forget that. Let us return to the tradition of working class struggle around this holiday and build a party that will fight for women's rights and the rights of all the oppressed.

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