Get Rid of Those Lame Pink Pussy Hats: International Women's Day Began With Socialists and Communists As A Worker's Movement. Let's See Action - Strike!

Today is International Women's Day, but how many know its origins that Socialists and Communists in NYC started it as a Labor Rights movement?(I didn't)/Conflagrant Teachers Strikes across the country are waking people up/"Strike!" - The Great Upheaval of 1877

Yesterday while cooking in the kitchen with the Boy, I was listening to one of countless, remarkable gems of radical cultural and educational speeches and interviews available of Pacifica Radio archives. The tiny portable hard drive is a treasure trove of thousands of hours of rare exclusive appearances, sent to your door with a donation. Even if you're not interested so much in Pacifica Radio (I am) it is so worth every penny (think it was $250 or something).

It was a Howard Zinn lecture called "Virtual Optimism: The Other Side of American History.” And he goes into a wonderful philosophical musing of the purpose of history and how he came to it personally. It was through his tireless devotion to telling the stories of the underclass and marginalized that I even know about so much of it. This, and the amazing wildcat Teachers Strikes going on, led me again to an essay I intend to write on Jeremy Blecher's vivid book "Strike," about the history of the labor movements use of strikes and the galvanizing of the local citizenry to their cause amidst sheer brutality of a scrambling capitalist empire.

But after hearing Amy Goodman's DN show this morning, and listening with a more than usual discerning ear ready to flip it off immediately at the start of any segment devoted to Trump, #MeToo or RussiaGate, I became engrossed while hearing an organizer of the International Women's March, an associate professor of South Asian history at Purdue University named Tithi Bhattacharya. She used her time to describe its socialist origins and call for a re-framing of it as a struggle of the 99%, as well as take a nice shot at the faux feminist movement around the Golden Calf of HRC. It's up now on their site but without the transcript so I've been busy doing that from YouTube) as, "On International Women’s Day, Women Declare: Emancipation Comes Through the Rejection of Capitalism."

Bhattacharya starts right off with a pronouncement that would have made Howard Zinn very pleased:

So, contrary to popular imagination, International Women's Day actually began in the United States. It was in 1909 that the feminist, Socialist Party member Teresa Mulkyle proposed a day of International Working Women's Day, for a March in the United States.

And she was inspired by a spate of strikes by women in New York City in the garment industry, and a lot of them very young and immigrant women. So Theresa Malkiel, Socialist Party member, proposed the International Women's Day in 1909, and then it was taken up by communists like Clara Zetkin and Luise Zietz at the communist international in Copenhagen in 1910, and declared as the International Working Women's Day.

So you know just like May Day, it's a labor struggle. It began in America but then over the years, because of various anti-labor and anti-socialist politics, and then the Cold War in America, it really died out. I mean International Women's Day has been celebrated in radical circles, outside of the United States, always.

But in the United States it was always marked by sort of Hallmark cards, you know, flowers and things like that. That whole radical labor working woman's element was sort of drained out of it in the United States.

Get a load of that! Nothing I despise more than the Hallmark-ization of our culture. But when it's used to cover up the blood, sweat and tears of so many of our antecedents it galls me to no end. Same with the origins of the diabolical Prosperity Gospel villainy, which was a result of the monopolists and bankers in the 1930's fearing a full scale revolution against capitalism, began paying for a full scale PR campaign that led to the proliferation of today's modern fascist Christians (see Kevin Kruse's book, ""One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Created Christian America.")

Then she talked about the strikes in West Virginia, in terms of a women's labor movement:

Like various parts of the country, seventy-five percent of the teachers in
West Virginia are women. And because of this large number of women in the profession, the profession itself has become gendered in many many ways.

So for instance a lot of the schools in West Virginia, as you know is one of the poorest states in the nation. So for a vast majority of children going to public school the school hot meal is perhaps one of the only hot meals they receive during the day. So teachers have to be more than public educators. They have to make sure that the children are fed; and in in a derogatory way this is seen as care work and women's work.

That is a sort of sexist interpretation of it. But the core strength of it lies in the fact that, because it is vast majority women and because women play a very significant role, bridging the gap between the workplace the home and the community - that when the teachers went on strike a vast portion of the community was immediately galvanized in support of the teachers. Churches came out, community members came out. Because women are not just teachers; they're mothers, they're church members, they're breadwinners in their family. So they sort of formed this astonishing a bridge between the workplace and the home making visible both kinds of labor.

In a reminder of why so may of us have revered Amy Goodman over the years, she set up her radical guest quite nicely to riff on if she saw corporations coming onboard as a victory for or a co-opting of the movement:

Absolute co-opting. And this is where I think the International Women’s Strike, we try to propose a very clear argument about feminism for the 99 percent, not lean-in feminism. So, this is the idea of the lean-in feminism that women’s emancipation comes through more participation in capitalism, whereas the feminist—feminism for the 99 percent, we propose that it is capitalism that causes women’s oppression and, hence, needs to be rejected. So, we do not want more CEOs in corner offices. We want to actually dismantle the system that produces CEOs....

But I think the question of an anti-capitalist feminism is something we have to
confront right now. Because feminism for decades of neoliberalism has been a feminism of the Hillary Clinton's and the Sheryl Sandberg's, which is basically breaking the glass ceiling while the vast majority of women are in the basement cleaning up the glass.

So we want to be able to say that feminism, if it is going to be successful, A) it has to be the real emancipation of the vast majority of women and, B) that cannot be achieved within capitalist structures.

(emphasis mine)

Right on! And to that end, the Teachers Strikes in West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and now in Oklahoma, are some of the best radical actions we've seen in a long time.

But at the heart of them is a story that's never sufficiently told. Which is that the amazing feeling of solidarity, the endorphins released, the overwhelming feeling of brother-sister/hood, empathy and compassion is beyond what most of us will ever get to feel in our lifetime. That kind of stuff makes the authorities get agitated and start sweating. Stay in your cubicles and here, take these new fun game apps for your phones.

The amount of sweat the monopolists of the 19th century excreted over this biggest kind of love, could be seen in how they reacted to the mass insurrections going cropping up all around and surrounding them.

In the first chapter of "Strike," author Jeremy Blecher makes known the real reason behind those ubiquitous, imposing, military castle-like structures in so many cities across the country:

In the centers of many American cities are positioned huge armories, grim nineteenth-century edifices of brick or stone. They are fortresses, complete with massive walls and loopholes for guns. You may have wondered why they are there, but it has probably never occurred to you that they were built to protect America, not against invasion from abroad, but against popular revolt at home.

Their erection was a monument to the Great Upheaval of 1877. July, 1877, does not appear in many history books as a memorable date, yet it marks the first great American mass strike, a movement which was viewed at the time as a violent rebellion. Strikers stopped and seized the nation's most important industry, the railroads, and crowds defeated or won over first the police, then the state militias, and in some cases even the Federal troops.

A strike is in some ways the reaction of human nature being pushed to the point of collapse. People will endure great hardships. But if it is perceived that it is punitive in any way, then unrest sets in and builds, until it has no option but to be released.

General strikes stopped all activity in a dozen major cities, and strikers took over social authority in communities across the nation. It all began on Monday, July 16th, 1877, in the little railroad town of Martinsburg, West Virginia. On that day, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad cut wages ten percent, the second cut in eight months.1 In Martinsburg, men gathered around the railroad yards, talking, waiting through the day. Toward evening the crew of a cattle train, fed up, abandoned the train, and other trainmen refused to replace them.

As a crowd gathered, the strikers uncoupled the engines, ran them into the roundhouse, and announced to B&O officials that no trains would leave Martinsburg till the pay cut was rescinded. The Mayor arrived and conferred with railroad officials. He tried to soothe the crowd and was booed; when he ordered the arrest of the strike leaders they just laughed at him, backed up in their resistance by the angry crowd. The Mayor's police were helpless against the population of the town. No railroad workers could be found willing to take out a train, so the police withdrew and by midnight the yard was occupied only by a guard of strikers left to enforce the blockade.

Can you imagine the exhilaration and feeling of oneness in that scene?

One must ask then about the hijacking of the law, in order to prevent this wonderful, life-affirming expression of dissent. If the law can be appropriated that these strikes are illegal, presumably because society is dependent on the work flow of these industries, then can it not also be used on the same grounds, that it is agreed that these industries are far too important to be in the hands of capricious, greedy private owners, and then must be seized from theirs, who are the cause of all the tumult and deprivation in human beings overworked and underpaid often in very dangerous conditions, and put in the ownership forever of the People (the State)?

While the monopolist media owners of every era misuse and abuse their communications business operations for personal gain rather than in the public interest, proving they are ultimately only in the business of ratcheting up the Fear against anyone allied in solidarity against the system they benefit from, the 99% have always had to tell their own stories for posterity.

Even a short poem printed in the Seattle Union Record (a daily newspaper put out by labour people) during the 1919 General Strike is an important nugget from which to glean a lot:

what scares them most is
That NOTHING HAPPENS!
They are ready
For DISTURBANCES.
They have machine guns
And soldiers,
But this SMILING SILENCE
Is uncanny. The business men
Don't understand
That sort of weapon . . .
It is your SMILE
That is UPSETTING
Their reliance
On Artillery, brother!...

At the above link read about the amazing examples of solidarity among all the complying sectors of workers and the very unique feeling of brotherhood, companionship and empathy experienced, of which "the commander of the U.S. army detachment sent into the area told the strikers' committee that in forty years of military experience he hadn't seen so quiet and orderly a city."

Eve Ensler, who was also on Democracy Now, wrote an impassioned paean to Occupy early on, that ranks as one of my favorite written, called "Ambiguous UpSparkles From the Heart of the Park (Mic Check/Occupy Wall Street)." One gets a similar feeling to the one that the writer in Seattle almost 100 years before. Grotesquely mis-portrayed in the media, history must record what really happened.

To Goodman, she described the difference between the healthcare she received for her cancer treatments:

I mean, the Mayo Clinic is such an amazing place, and it’s probably the closest we have to any kind of socialist medicine. I mean, most of the doctors there have capped their salaries, so they actually work collectively as a team for you. They’re not competing with each other. But then I got to Sloan Kettering, which was a nightmare experience, where I not only didn’t feel seen or looked at, literally, but I was treated really terribly. And I eventually went to Beth Israel, where the care was quite wonderful.

Again, the difference between socialist and capitalist practices, with respect to the ways in which the capitalist ones manifest in terms of there being pressures inherent in a for-profit system that all too often exceed treating sick human beings with dignity.

One of the subtexts of all of this, to me, is vitally important. It is that we have remain ever vigilant and with keen eyes to tell the stories of those dissenting from, uncooperative of, boldly speaking and acting out against, the status quo lies of propaganda. Whether having caught a small nugget of truth on a mainstream media program, something written on a small blog or observed an act of defiance, it is incumbent on us to seize upon those gems and reflect it back to more people (which is what people like Jimmy Dore are doing). Because let's face it folks, we are on the march toward, or in the throes of, full-fledged Fascism, depending on how you see it.

With the massive organs of today's MSM propaganda on full blare with Russian Red Herring Mania, all stories of these wondrous solidarity conditions brought about by strikes are completely obscured. It's the same, tired, old blueprint every single time. Cops are instructed by their commanders who dine with the 99% to incite a riot, a few strikers who are already at their breaking point comply (or in some cases do not), and the flashbulbs go off, the headline has already been written and the protesters are maligned viciously in a one-sided account. Mission accomplished, as the removed minion getting his "news" from such trustworthy sources riles up his anger toward the wrong people. This happens over and over and over again.

Today's International Women's March may be mostly another saccharine, Dinsey-fied, corporate Neoliberalist co-opting. If it is to be a movement of any consequence it must embrace the longview, while seeking inspiration from its original intent. The writing's on the wall for people to see. People watching MSM will never connect the dots.

Yet, the reality on the ground is far different. And it's that history that must be collected, preserved, chronicled and trumpeted.

The International Women's March was started by Socialist workers in New York City and spread across the globe by the international Communist movement, to protest labor conditions and right.

Let's continue to be a bulwark against this insanity, and be ready to march, not comply, develop other systems outside of the capitalist framework and use other methods of subversion. It's not easy. We've been marginalized, viewed as outcasts, "aiding the enemy" (all the dangerous stuff arendt discussed in his essay yesterday). But history always vindicates the visionaries.

As with BlackLivesMatter, I think that while the autonomy of other like factions such as Feminism and immigrant rights, for example, is important, it is crucial that it is pronounced from the start, and framed within the context of, a struggle for the rights of the 99%.

Theresa Malkiel, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr, and Caesar Chavez would have it no other way.

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Comments

zoebear's picture

But at the heart of them is a story that's never sufficiently told. Which is that the amazing feeling of solidarity, the endorphins released, the overwhelming feeling of brother-sister/hood, empathy and compassion is beyond what most of us will ever get to feel in our lifetime. That kind of stuff makes the authorities get agitated and start sweating.

I felt this down at Zucchotti Park, and still mull over to this day, if we could've change the outcome?

As far as the Corporate Women's Day. It's going to be difficult for me today because I won't be in a position to engage any of the pink pussy hats in a real conversation because I'll be at work. But I'll see them. They'll come into the store and all I'll be able to do is smile.

Thanks for the great resources in this essay.

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"World is a multi-dimensional reality. At lower levels, it is full with unconsciousness and competitiveness. At higher level, it is full of beauty, bliss and divinity. Focus on higher dimensions"
~Amit Ray

The Aspie Corner's picture

It's not enough for the capitalists to destroy movements for real, transformative social and economic change. They have to be twisted into objects of conformity, as if to say "These people made it, you can too if you just stopped being lazy and disobedient." MLK Jr., Malcolm X, Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, The Black Panthers, the Anti-War Movement, Labor Unions...all of them have been utterly appropriated by the capitalist class for their own enrichment.

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Lily O Lady's picture

@The Aspie Corner

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

I wrote about that strike

warniing TOP link

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mimi's picture

@gjohnsit

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wendy davis's picture

i'd been chortling while watch some detractors in the twittersphere this morning.

so i clicked into the hashtag and laughed some more (aside from virtue-signaling males and male heads of corporations, badassss millionaire singers, selfies, and female heroes of graphic novels, of course).

but good on amy goodman this time.

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wendy davis's picture

but wsws had reporters there all week or ten days, and this was the sad outcome: ‘West Virginia teachers unions ram through sell-out deal to end strike;, wsws.org

it's not very long, so i hope you won't mind if i don't bring excerpts. now OK is considering a teachers strike, so, we hope it goes better for them.

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Lily O Lady's picture

@wendy davis

Unions appear to be a microcosm of our government. The leaders are there to protect the status quo, not serve the members.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

wendy davis's picture

@Lily O Lady

re: union boss sellouts: i was trying to remember how it went for the striking chicago teachers, and they may have struck again once karen lewis got better after her cancer treatments (O, for a memory!), but i bingled and found this point of view from 2012: 'SOLD OUT! Pro-Capitalist CTU Leadership Shoves Lousy Contract Down Teachers Throats in Bogus Voice Vote', indyworkersofchicago.

i began musing about bleeping richard trumka selling out his membership over obomba(dont)care, and boy, howdy were they pissed to find out what it actually was all about, and razzed the hell outta him when he (O) was the keynote speaker at their next annual meeting. but then, you may remember that O had put him on his 'jobs council', and seeing him rubbin' shoulders w/ jamie dimon, et.al.,was to much for a sane person to bear. ha: when i wrote that up at my.firedoglake, miz jane hamsher was pissed at me. i found out later she'd been 'dating' andy stern, then prez of the SEIU, so that explained some of it.

when the longshoremen (the real deal) began striking the ports on the west coast (with the help of occupy wall streeters), they were glorious. but once they struck the port of longview, washington, 'card check' obomba threatend to send in the coast guard so the grain ships could be unloaded, and trumpka famously called all of it 'a regional dispute'. the cool news was that the ilwu membership voted to move out of the clutches of the afl-cio.

i was thinking once again, though, how at the turn of the century, before the big and serious lengthy strikes, that it was organized so that behind one striker were three or four families supporting the one actual striker. that sort of solidarity is incredibly inspirational to me now. as was the striking west VA teachers packing up food and bringing it w/ them to make sure the hungry chirren...would eat. dayum, it made me cry again. forgive typos, please.

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mimi's picture

trigger my desire to dig into studies about 20th century comparative social movements between US and Europe/Russia.

I also admire and envy those, who can listen to music, read and cook with a kiddo trying to get your
attention at the same time. I can't even read with a TV running on very low volume in the background.
Cheers.
Smile

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snoopydawg's picture

Well done, Mark! This sentence stood out for me:

If the law can be appropriated that these strikes are illegal, presumably because society is dependent on the work flow of these industries, then can it not also be used on the same grounds, that it is agreed that these industries are far too important to be in the hands of capricious, greedy private owners, and then must be seized from theirs, who are the cause of all the tumult and deprivation in human beings overworked and underpaid often in very dangerous conditions, and put in the ownership forever of the People (the State)?

Yes it can be used on the same grounds. Absolutely.

The other thing that stands out is the message of the poem. The PTB are very ready for if we rise up against them and that's why they militarized the police. But if we went after them with work stoppages and boycotts, I think that would get their attention. Let them play with their mercenaries police and their billion dollar spying complexes, if we stay inside the lines, we might be able to bring them to the table.

The Blue Blog is on fire

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thanatokephaloides's picture

@snoopydawg

The Blue Blog is on fire

Blue flames are hottest!

Smile

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"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

and the one at TOP, first class.

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wendy davis's picture

mark from queens: ‘The condition of working-class women on International Women’s Day’, kate randal, wsws.org, March 9, 2018

“There is more talk of gender in the American and global media than perhaps at any previous moment in history. The #MeToo campaign in the US has supposedly brought the conditions of women to the fore like never before. The US media and Hollywood are animated by hardly anything else.
But this is a fraud. The women getting nearly all the coverage belong to the upper echelons of society, the richest five or ten percent. Working-class women are nowhere to be seen in all this, except for a few token exceptions that prove the rule.

This skewed class lineup in the media coverage reflects a greater social reality: the gap between affluent women and working-class women has widened dramatically in the past several decades. On International Women’s Day in 2018, what are the conditions of the great majority of women in the world, those who are ignored by the media, those who do not get their faces and their complaints on the evening news?

Today, of the 1.3 billion of the planet’s 7.6 billion inhabitants living in extreme poverty, 70 percent are women or girls, according to Project Concern International.” [long snip of facts and figures]

“The fight for women’s rights is a social question that must be resolved in the arena of class struggle, not in the rarified atmosphere of the corporate boardroom and Hollywood. As Rosa Luxemburg once explained: “The women of the property-owning class will always fanatically defend the exploitation and enslavement of the working people, by which they indirectly receive the means for their socially useless existence.”

The origins of International Women’s Day date to February 28, 1909 in New York City, when a National Woman’s Day was organized by the Socialist Party of America. Two years later in the same city, on March 25, 1911, 146 garment workers would perish in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire—from flames or smoke inhalation and by falling or jumping to their deaths. The vast majority of victims, 123, were women, most of them recent Italian and Jewish immigrants, aged 16 to 23.

One hundred years ago, on March 8, 1917, according to the Gregorian calendar, women textile workers began a demonstration in Petrograd marking the beginning of the Russian Revolution, an event that led to a radical advance in the social conditions and rights for workers—women and men alike—in Russia and throughout the world.”

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wendy davis's picture

wondering again about how and why c99ers skitter off and about, rarely coming back to diaries, even the authors. i'm so not used to it, sigh. it seems to be 'get your licks in soon, or never' or something. how peculiar it all is to me.

well, peace if you can manage it.

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