March 7, 2023 1:02 pm
The history of International Women’s Day teaches us that when we fight, we win. Working class, socialist women around the world have paved the way in struggle and have been at the forefront of the movements for workers’ rights, social provisioning and ending imperialist wars.
A History of Connecting Domestic and International Struggles
On International Women’s Day in 1917, tens of thousands of women in Russia struck for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over two million Russian soldiers at war. As Clara Zetkin, a fierce opponent of imperialist war, declared in 1915, “The workers have nothing to gain from this war, but they stand to lose everything that is dear to them.”
Alongside demands to end the war, women strikers protested food shortages and poor living conditions. They understood that the economic conditions of working women are inseparable from the ruling class’s voracious drive to war. It is workers who die in rich men’s wars abroad and working women who shoulder the burdens of the economic war at home. It was the tens of thousands of Russian women striking that sparked the revolutionary foment which ultimately led to the overthrow of the tsar, proving that only an independent people’s movement can defeat an oppressive state and lead the way to a new society.
Today, working class and oppressed women in the United States can draw inspiration from socialist, anti-imperialist women around the world and across more than a century of struggle. As socialist women living in the center of imperialist aggression, we have a special responsibility to speak out against the death and destruction unleashed in our names, to show the connections between the U.S. war drive and the dire social problems that go unaddressed in our communities and to fight alongside working women of the world for an end to capitalist exploitation, patriarchal violence and endless imperialist wars.
The Mounting Crises Working Women Face
Here in the United States, women workers make the economy work, but the economy doesn’t work for us. We are in the middle of a spike in inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and capitalists taking advantage of these crises to gouge prices even further. Inflation–though commonly blamed on things like “the supply chain,” higher wages and government spending–is actually dictated by the capitalists. More than half of inflation dollars line corporate pockets, whereas only 8% goes to increased wages.
Working people are struggling to keep up with rents and to put food on the table. Working women are some of the hardest hit, often in ways different from men. Women, particularly specially oppressed women, are much more likely to be trapped in violent and abusive homes or exploitative jobs due to the lack of financial means to break free. Women are also bearing the brunt of the 10.1% increase in the cost of food and the ongoing childcare crisis. In 2020, women were forced out of the workforce at twice the rate of men to care for their children. And 29% of childcare workers, who are predominantly women, faced food insecurity because wages are so low.
Working women around the country are facing a child care crisis, expansion of child labor exploitation, the evisceration of reproductive rights and rampant inflation. Despite all this, rather than meeting the needs of working women in our own country, the U.S. government has sent $100 billion for the war in Ukraine, where the U.S. war destroys women’s lives abroad. Even during an inflation crisis, the U.S. government finds no shortage of funds for the war machine, with annual budgets approaching $1 trillion annually. The U.S. spends more on its military each year than the next 9 countries combined. As working people suffer from rising prices, the social programs that might have once offered some small relief are being slashed. The U.S. government claims there’s no money to continue the universal free lunch program, the childcare tax credit or rental assistance programs it established at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the military budget is ever increasing.
The economic hardships women face today are exacerbated by the attacks on basic democratic rights. The Supreme Court declared war on abortion rights with the Dobbs decision, which has paved the way for further attacks. A conservative federal judge is poised to outlaw the abortion pill nationwide, after many states have enacted bans on abortions in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision. Trans rights are also under attack, with the passage of a bill by the Oklahoma House of Representatives to ban gender transitioning care for minors. Voting rights, environmental protections, workers’ rights and more are all on the chopping block, as far-right sectors of the ruling class attempt to reverse the achievements accumulated by working class and oppressed people since the mid-1930s.
A Broad Women’s Movement Propels Change
The U.S capitalist state will only do more if a strong people’s movement demands it and organizes for it. We know the U.S government can and will act when it’s pressured from below. Though it was the bare minimum, we saw peoples’ needs addressed to a higher extent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. ruling class did not expand social and economic programs for working class and poor people out of the goodness of their hearts. We fought to cancel the rents. We fought for student loan forgiveness. We fought for paid sick leave and for safer working conditions. We fought for our students, our patients and our coworkers. And we joined or started unions in droves.
All of the gains made by working people have been through struggle. Over more than 100 years of IWD history demonstrates this to be true. This International Women’s Day, in solidarity with working women around the globe, we struggle again for bread and peace in the United States and all over the world!
Join us in this call! We encourage all women of conscience who consider themselves fighters of justice to join over 200 organizations in Washington D.C. for the National March on Washington: Fund People’s Needs, Not the War Machine on March 18th at 1p.m.
March 4, 2023 1:50 pm
A notoriously conservative federal judge in Texas has the opportunity this month to ban access to the abortion pill nationwide, potentially affecting millions of women and other people seeking abortion care. The Alliance Defending Freedom, along with other anti-abortion groups, has filed a lawsuit against the FDA, claiming that the agency accelerated the review process for the approval of the medication, mifepristone. Mifepristone, which is used in the majority of abortions in the U.S., has been approved for use for 20 years. Banning the pill now would be unprecedented and disastrous. Mifepristone is also used in miscarriage care.
Meanwhile, the major drugstore chain Walgreens has said they will stop selling mifepristone in certain states, even where it is legal, citing threats from reactionary state attorneys general. As Politico reported:
“The nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain confirmed Thursday that it will not dispense abortion pills in several states where they remain legal — acting out of an abundance of caution amid a shifting policy landscape, threats from state officials and pressure from anti-abortion activists.
Nearly two dozen Republican state attorneys general wrote to Walgreens in February, threatening legal action if the company began distributing the drugs, which have become the nation’s most popular method for ending a pregnancy.”
Mifepristone is typically taken in conjunction with misoprostol, and together they are more than 95% effective in terminating pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Misoprostol on its own can also work, but this is not the current practice in the U.S. and it is unclear how quickly providers will be able to change their approach to abortion care, if they do at all. The FDA has repeatedly approved this two-step process to be safe and effective, which begs the question, why is this lawsuit only happening now?
This newest abortion care crisis comes in the wake of the Dobbs decision, which eliminated the nationwide right to abortion. Prior to this decision, the abortion pill already accounted for more than half of abortions in the U.S. In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, many states are restricting abortion. Because of this, access to mifepristone, which can be ordered by mail, is even more critical. Reactionaries, emboldened by the Dobbs decision, are looking to further restrict abortion access—and the abortion pill is among their current targets.
Abortion providers are predicting the effects of a ruling banning mifepristone will be widespread and impose major restrictions on abortion care, even in progressive states. Mini Timmaraju, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, describes the impact this lawsuit may have as a “backdoor ban on abortion,” which is in the hands of just one federal judge.
‘Judge shopping on steroids’
The judge who will decide whether to ban mifepristone nationwide, Matthew Kacsmaryk, was appointed by former President Donald Trump. His previous job was as the attorney for a right-wing, anti-abortion “Christian” organization. Not only does he have a history of conservative rulings against immigrants rights and workplace protections for LGBTQ people, one prior ruling prevented free birth control for minors in Texas. In most districts in the U.S. federal judges are randomly selected from a pool that includes multiple judges; however, in the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas, a local order allows litigants to avoid randomly assigning judges. As a result, 95% of federal cases in the Amarillo division are assigned to Kacsmaryk. “It’s judge shopping on steroids,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, executive director of the progressive legal advocacy group Take Back the Court.
Not only has Kacsmaryk ruled against rights for immigrants and protections for LGBTQ people in the workplace and in healthcare, but his precedent for these conservative rulings has made him an ally to reactionary causes. The organization suing to ban the abortion pill recently incorporated in Amarillo, Texas, in order to be able to bring this case before Kacsmaryk. This undemocratic “judge shopping” allows Kacsmaryk to open his court to any reactionary cause that seeks to overturn the rights of millions.
Democratic decision-making is exactly what is at stake with this decision. Over 72% of Americans were opposed to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The fact that one undemocratically appointed judge has the opportunity to eviscerate the rights of millions of people against their will points to the need for a new system.
The Biden administration has called on Kacsmaryk to rule in favor of the continued legal use of mifepristone, which has been long approved as safe and effective. These empty words add insult to injury when part of the reason we are facing this crisis is due to the Biden administration’s failure to legally codify the right to abortion, despite opportunities to do so.
If Kacsmaryk does overrule the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, it is highly likely that the decision will be appealed. In fact, 12 states are also filing a lawsuit against the FDA, to push for wider access to mifepristone. These states are accusing the FDA of setting up unnecessary barriers to accessing the drug. These barriers include requiring special certification to prescribe mifepristone as well as signing an agreement that a patient has decided to end their pregnancy to receive the medication, which will go into their medical record. This can often deter patients from getting abortions. Most other medications do not have such restrictions, and the ones which do are much more dangerous, like opioids and fentanyl.
Abortion rights are popular amongst the vast majority of Americans. History tells us that if we want to preserve these rights, we need to fight back. Mass struggle is the only proven pathway to protect our human rights. We need a militant women’s movement in the streets if we are to defend the right to abortion care as a human right. We won’t go back!
Every person who works on the magazine is a full-time or retired worker or student. We are all activists and organizers in our communities. We are revolutionaries, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We are people from a broad spectrum of nationalities, LGBTQ and other oppressed communities. We are mothers and daughters and nieces supporting our families and our communities in a myriad of ways.
The women of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have:
Women workers make the economy work but the economy doesn’t work for us. The corporate media and tiny elite of billionaires would have us believe that U.S. capitalism reigns free with no restriction, dictated only by the market. Under “free market” logic, economic crises seem unavoidable and unsolvable. This is not the case. Economic crises are part and parcel of the capitalist system, and reveal the government’s failure to provide for people’s needs. During economic downturns, the responsibility of pinching pennies falls squarely on women, and the exploitation of women workers and violence increase. We bear the burden of the failures of the system. From rising rents to the recent baby formula shortage to a deep dive into foster care, this issue seeks to make understanding the capitalist economic situation accessible for all working and poor women, from a revolutionary perspective.
This issue includes:
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