Thursday November 26, 2020
| Last update: Wednesday at 7:46 PM

Minnesota International Women’s Day: If we are organized, we can beat them, and we have a world to win!

By Staff |
March 9, 2020
Read more articles in
Jess Sundin
Jess Sundin (Meredith Aby-Keirstead)

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following speech delivered by Freedom Road Socialist Organization leader Jess Sundin, at the Twin Cities celebration of International Women’s Day.

Good afternoon, comrades and friends, and happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is about our liberation, but before we talk about liberation, we need to understand oppression, and how it shapes the lives of women and nonbinary folx today. I’m going to start by talking about the economic realities or the material basis of women’s oppression.

It says in the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) Unity Statement, “The oppression of women predates the rise of capitalism. Capitalism, together with male supremacy, intensified the subordination and degradation of women. Capitalism also manipulated family life and sexuality to ensure its control over the working class.” Or to put in simpler terms, the political-economic system we live under, capitalism, uses the oppression of women to hold down the whole working class.

We can measure this concretely in the differences in the economic lives of women versus men.

Women make less money then men, even when we have the same experience or qualifications and the same

jobs. White women are paid 82 cents for every dollar what white men make. Using data from Census, the National Women’s Law Center points out that the wage gap is significantly bigger for women from oppressed communities: Black women make 65%, Native women make 58%, and Latina women are paid just 54% compared to white men. Or to put it another way, a Latina woman can expect to earn a million dollars less in her lifetime, compared to a white man. All of us other women will see hundreds of thousands of dollars less in our lifetime paydays.

Globally, women are getting further from economic equality instead of closer. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2020, “… the figures are sobering, with a deteriorating situation forcing gender parity to a lowly 57.8%, which in time represents a massive 257 years before gender parity can be achieved.”

Not only are we paid less on the job, women also do most of the unpaid labor in society - caring for children, the sick and elderly, and our communities. There is no country where men spend an equal amount of time on unpaid work as women, and where it’s the worst, women are doing double the unpaid labor that our men counterparts are doing.

These are just a few of facts. When other speakers come up here today, I encourage you to listen for the concrete, economic ways, that women in our workplaces, schools and communities, are exploited and disadvantaged.

Women’s oppression is not only a matter of economic exploitation, we also live in a cultural and political climate that piles onto that material reality, and makes up the ideology that keeps our oppression in place.

Every single day in this country, about four women and girls are murdered because of their gender, most are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Gender-based violence is the leading cause of death for African American women and girls ages 15–24. I was surprised to learn that it’s also the leading cause of death for women while they are at work. Those are the murders. We also experience domestic abuse, street harassment and sexual violence that do immense harm, but do not kill us.

And despite being a much smaller portion of the population, gender-based violence disproportionately harms our trans and nonbinary siblings. In the last year, there have been at least 26 murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people, including two in police or ICE custody. I say “at least,” because we believe these numbers are much higher, as many deaths go unreported and victims are misgendered. The majority of these murders are of Black trans women.

Native American women are more than twice as likely as any other group to experience violence.

Violence against women, girls and gender nonconforming folks is a real pandemic, and capitalist governments have no real answers for it.

On top of all this, we are also living in a time when women are losing the fundamental rights to control whether and when we become mothers. The Trump Administration is spearheading these attacks right now. First, they’re making massive cuts to food stamps, housing assistance, and whatever else is left of the social safety net for low income people. They are literally willing to starve poor and working families, rather than support us as mothers.

On the flip side, access to birth control and abortion are also under attack. Trump appointments have stacked the Supreme Court against us, and just this week they heard a case that could open the door to overturning Roe v. Wade. If that happens, there are 20 states that our poised to ban abortion. And if you think birth control is the answer, that’s under attack as well. Obama’s Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to provide coverage for birth control, but Trump and his kind are also bringing that to their anti-woman Supreme Court, trying to get a religious exemption for employers that don’t want to pay for insurance that includes this basic reproductive health care for women.

Comrades asked me to address the political climate for women in the context of campaigns for the next president of U.S. empire. We are not talking about who will be our president, because working and oppressed people do not run this country yet. I know some of you have been watching the Democratic debates, and some of you voted here in Minnesota’s primary election on Tuesday. I did.

We know that the Democrats and Republicans are just two sides of the same bad penny, but they are not the same. Just like the Democrats who want to run against Trump, they’re not the same as each other either. Some of them were the architects of the war on welfare, designed to keep the poorest section of the working class hungry and homeless. Some of them, fought against those cuts. Some of them supported states’ rights to continue segregation, others joined the civil rights movement when they were fighting against Jim Crow and voter suppression.

Some bosses are nicer than others, but you know they’re still bosses. Same goes for politicians, some may seem nicer, but they’re all politicians upholding this corrupt system. As revolutionaries, we want to overturn this whole rotten system; but in the meantime, we are not neutral about what the ruling class is doing, and which of them will be in command.

Many have been inspired to see several women run for president, but the fact is, women have been running for president my entire life (which as of today, is 47 years). Kamala Harris wasn’t the first Black woman to run either, that’s was Shirley Chisholm in 1972. I won’t lie, I loved her takedown of Joe Biden for collaborating with segregationists. But then, when she dropped out of the race, she endorsed Biden. When Elizabeth Warren shredded that pig Bloomberg on the debate stage, I dreamed of seeing her deliver the same to Trump. But now she dropped out and hasn’t endorsed anyone.

Seeing women on those debate stages felt good for some, but as revolutionaries, we don’t have the luxury of pinning our politics on what feels good. It’s movements that make history, not individuals, no matter their gender, or how high the office they hold.

It was in 1920, a hundred years ago, that women won the right to vote, and it was almost a hundred years of struggle before we won that much. Honestly, how far has that gotten us? Not far enough. And that’s because the whole system is designed to keep us and our class down. There’s no way to vote that away. “Hell no” is never an option on the ballot, though many people express their frustration with this rigged system by not participating.

But electoral politics are an arena of the people’s struggle. So, we think folks should participate.

If Trump is defeated in 2020, it’s clear that will be better for working and oppressed people. We want to come out of this electoral process with our movements being stronger, and our enemies being weaker. That is why FRSO is asking folks across the country to vote for the most-progressive candidate, and that’s Bernie Sanders. His platform promises some reforms that would benefit our people in real ways. His campaign lifts up trade unions and other movement organizers who’ve been working on some of these same reforms for years. And it’s clear enough, the worst of the Democrats hate him the most. That makes it clear enough what we need to do.

The further Sanders gets in this campaign, the wider the door is open for all of us to raise our demands. We are not confused, he is not our candidate. But of their candidates, he’s our pick.

So, let’s end on a high note, because International Women’s Day is not just for understanding our own oppression, it’s for building and celebrating our struggles. It’s a day to honor the leading role of women in every movement for human liberation.

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world, with forums, rallies, marches and even strikes. On Monday, Mexico will be “a country without women” when 20 million Mexican women are expected to stay home from work, school, markets, everywhere - to strike against the epidemic of violence against women and girls, and the culture of sexism.

In the U.S., we see women taking the lead in almost every social movement. In labor, it’s the strike wave of teachers, who are mostly women; in the African American community, it’s the mothers and wives and sisters, leading the movement against police murders; Native women are fighting back with a massive movement to address the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. You’ll find women on the front lines of any movement in our country today.

The FRSO Unity Statement says, “The fight for women’s genuine liberation and equality is one of the central components of the communist movement. Countries that have had socialist revolutions have seen huge gains for women in terms of political representation and participation, as well as increased rights such as easier access to jobs outside of the home, easier access to divorce, and increased reproductive freedom.”

This is the universal experience of women in socialist countries, and we know that women playing leading roles in transforming those societies. Let’s take a moment to bring some of the great revolutionary women in our history into this room. I need you to help me out, shout out their names. (Crowd responses included Claudia Jones, Assata Shakur, Lucy Parsons, Clara Zetkin, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Marsha P. Johnson, Rasmea Odeh, Ahed Tamimi, and Berta Cáceras.)

I want to close by inviting you to join us, not only in the important mass struggles you’ll hear about from other speakers, but also as revolutionaries, committed to overthrowing capitalist system that kills us every day. FRSO is not just an organization that studies what’s wrong with society and thinks about what is to be done, we are an organization of fighters. We are up against a powerful enemy, but there are more of us than there are of them. If we are organized, we can beat them, and we have a world to win!