International Women’s Day: Widespread action in the former Soviet Union and in Brazil

The women’s movement across the world is experiencing a big growth. In Europe and the Americas, millions have protested to say no to sexism, patriarchy and capitalism.


Jane Barros

It is no exaggeration to say that the commemorations of 8th of March in Brazil were the biggest in the recent period. This reflects the growth of resistance against the illegitimate government of Temer and its attacks.

In the majority of Brazil’s states, teachers staged a one-day strike against the pensions counter-reform, which attacks especially women’s right to pensions. That helped strengthen the protests that took place in almost all state capitals and other big cities and was linked to the international women’s struggle and “women’s strike” of 8th of March.

The struggle against femicide was also a central theme, under the slogan of ‘Ni una a menos’ (‘Not one fewer’).

In São Paulo, teachers’ strike meetings and a women’s march joined up in a big demonstration of 20,000, mainly women. In Rio de Janeiro, 15,000 participated, along with 10,000 in Belo Horizonte and the national capital Brasília, 5,000 in Curitiba, 3,000 in Fortaleza.

The women of LSR (CWI in Brazil) played an important role in the build-up to the demonstration in São Paulo, where we sold our papers and 800 badges – mostly on women’s rights, abortion and against violence against women as well as “Temer out” badges. We had a good contingent in Rio de Janeiro, where we mobilised school students to the demonstration.

We also intervened in Santos, where the municipal workers are on strike, and in Natal, João Pessoa, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Goiânia – in fact, from the far south to the north-east of the country.

Preparations for more protests

The success of the protests on International Women’s Day gives a boost to activists to build for the 15th of March, when the teachers will be joined by several other categories of workers in a new national day of strikes and protests against the pension counter-reform and attacks on labour rights.

The illegitimate president Temer came to power after the right-wing parties staged a parliamentary coup against Dilma of the PT (Workers’ Party), last year. He has not only stepped up attacks and austerity measures, but he is also clearly a misogynist. He started off appointing the first government since the military dictatorship totally without women. On the very 8th of March, he made a speech declaring that he recognises the important role that women play in the home and that women make an important contribution checking prices in the supermarket! 

His view that the role of women is to take care of the home, family and children, goes totally in the opposite direction to the tens of thousands of women who took to the streets on International Women’s Day. The 8th of March opened the road to organising the struggle on a new level in the coming months. This is just the beginning.

Pictures and video here

Russia and former USSR

Socialist Alternative calls for a mass movement for women’s rights

Marta Hromova, Moscow

The women’s movement across the world is experiencing a big growth. In Europe and the Americas, millions have protested to say no to sexism, patriarchy and capitalism. The former Soviet Union is no exception, although our protests were much smaller and more modest.

There were women’s marches in Bishkek and Osh in Kirghizia, in Kiev, Kharkov, Lviv and Mariupol in Ukraine and in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In the capital of Georgia –Tbilisi – there was a demonstration outside the parliament on Prospect Rustaveli.

Scandalously, in St Petersburg, the city in which a 100 years ago the February revolution was sparked off by women workers coming out on strike in defence of their rights, in 2017, protestors demanding womens’ rights were attacked and arrested by police. In Moscow, there were several pickets and protests.

Sotsialisticheskaya Alternativa played an active part in the Moscow actions. The main protest was held under the banner of the “Women’s strike” and was supported by a number of feminist and LGBT groups, left organisations and NGOs with women and men of different ages participating. Speakers pointed to the big growth in women’s protests which was sweeping the world, accelerating partly as a result of the “black protest” in Poland against the attempts to ban abortion rights.

The demonstration was held in Moscow’s “Hyde Park” – an innovation of the Moscow government to make sure no-one sees protestors. It was far away on the edge of one of the city’s parks – walled off and difficult to find and to get to. The city authorities did not allow any demonstrations or meetings in the city centre. As participants approached “Hyde Park” they were thoroughly searched by police. All banners and placards had to be unfurled and they were photographed. Leaflets were confiscated “to check their content”. Activists were obviously upset by such police censorship, but remained cool: after all, if we had all agreed to organise such a protest, we needed to demonstrate discipline and determination.

Same problems

Participants in the different protests all talked about the problems women face in the world -domestic violence, inequality and discrimination at work. Discrimination against the LGBT community was also raised. In Bishkek, Reina Arturova explained that a third of women in the world experience violence, but in Central Asia up to 83% of women, according to local research, suffer from some form of violence every day. In Lviv, Oksana Vavrenchuk spoke against domestic violence. She called for equal pay for equal work by women and men. In Almaty, Veronika Fonova said that there was a 31% difference between the wages of men and women. She pointed out that there were very few women in government and that rape was still common.

Activists from Sotsialisticheskaya Alternativa in Moscow in their speeches concentrated on the main issue: on the need to build a mass movement in the fight against patriarchy and sexism, and also against economic exploitation. This is particularly true given the further recent attacks on women’s rights and the recent decriminalization of domestic violence in Russia (see article There were several other activities, including films and concerts in Moscow on the day.

What was clear was that a discussion on strategy and tactics is needed in Russia. It will not be possible to attract new people into activity if we continue to accept being corralled into far-off parks and organise meetings just for our own people. Millions of working women across the region remain prisoners of social stereotypes. They are not involved in the struggle for their economic and social rights and freedoms. They remain outside of the feminist discourse and often have no idea it is possible to resist. So, we need to turn out to reach a wider audience, by organizing joint public activities involving all the different campaigns and involving where possible both men and women, and by conducting an open discussion on programme and tactics.

The struggle should continue every day – in the workplaces, in the universities, on the estates and on the streets. We need hundreds and thousands of activists carrying out work, handing out leaflets, raising money and although we may be few at the moment, we can meet new people with every activity.

At the same time, we should not forget our clear aims. We need to change society. This can only be done by millions of people in united struggle against the conditions of life – miserly wages, the lack of social support, the unfair judicial system and anything else that deprives us of hope in the future – patriarchy, sexism and capitalism itself. We need to replace them by a society without prejudices, exploitation and repression based on democratic discussion, a planned economy, a socialist society under the control of all working people.


Paris demonstrations

Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France) reports on two International Women’s Day demonstrations in Paris.

At a clearly anti-capitalist demonstration the speeches at the beginning were good – on the issues of saving public services, fighting capitalism, oppression and sexism. The GR stall did a roaring trade in badges against sexism and saying ‘Down with Macron!’ However, the organisers then prepared to start the march excluding men and not permitting political banners and material. The GR members did not participate, insisting that the struggle to overcome inequality and exploitation is extremely political and is a joint struggle of men and women against the system of capitalism.

The main trade unions in France organised an International Women’s Day demonstration in La Republique (Square) with some few thousand participants and speeches from various trade union leaders.

See photos here

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March 2017