From the May-June 2016 issue of News & Letters
Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2016-2017
The need for new beginnings in thought and in action
I. Discontent, revolt and reaction in the U.S.
II. The worldwide war against women
III. Chinese labor in revolt
IV. Counter-revolution and revolution in the Middle East and North Africa
V. Toward organizational new beginnings
…Continued from I. Discontent, revolt and reaction in the U.S.
II. The worldwide war against women
While the war against women in the U.S. has not yet reached a widespread shooting war—although abortion doctors, clinic workers, and clinic users have been killed—worldwide, war and terrorism are destroying women’s lives from Yemen and Syria to South Sudan and the Central African Republic. So corrupt are the troops tasked by the UN to guard endangered civilians, that they end up beating, raping, and killing those they were sent to protect, as troops from France, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi have done to women in the Central African Republic. To think that the UN can be a “peacekeeper” under these conditions is a cruel joke.
Women and girls who are Syrian refugees are being sold to men in a futile attempt by their families to give them a better life. Many are soon abandoned by their much older “husbands” and end up back in the camps, only this time they are considered damaged goods. In Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is hunting down, jailing and “disappearing” those who made the Arab Spring and created new human relations in Tahrir Square. The latest is his witch-hunt against those in the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Nazra for Feminist Studies and the United Group.
The war in Yemen has devastated the population. According to Oxfam, 80% of the country is in “dire need.” This is a famine brought on by capitalism, as international banks no longer offer credit to importers, who are suspending food shipments in a country where 90% of food is imported. Both Houthis and Saudi Arabia target civilians—hospitals, playgrounds, schools and markets. Thousands have been killed. In fact, U.S. arms dealers love what is happening in Yemen. Human Rights Watch reports that in just five months the U.S. sold $7.8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and approved more than $12 billion in arms deals with them at the end of 2015. What brings more horror to what is happening, and despair to those living through this hell, is it seems that no one cares.
Of course women are fighting back. This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 gives us a view of how deep and widespread is their struggle once you get past the state-sponsored panels and photo opportunities of assorted dictators and presidents, like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, always pictured standing with a coterie of handpicked female flunkies, not one of whom has lifted a finger to help free the women living in their countries.
This IWD, British women gave solidarity to their sisters in Ireland who must travel to England to have a safe legal abortion; in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, women used the day to honor environmental justice activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered earlier in the month; and in Tbilisi, Georgia, women demanded “Rights instead of flowers!” and an end to violence against them and to “stop sexual harassment at work.” Women marched in every country from India to the U.S., from Egypt to Mexico.
Women in Turkey expressed the true spirit of International Women’s Day by defying a virtual ban on celebrating it. The ban, announced on March 4, was supposedly for the women’s safety against terrorism, but no one believed it. Yurdagul Boztas, from the Ankara Women’s Platform, pointed to the skyrocketing number of rapes and sexual harassment and asked: “With all these how can you ask women to remain silent and not take to the streets?”
Two days after the ban, women marched. In further defiance of Erdoğan, who has been slaughtering Turkey’s Kurdish population and destroying their homes and cities, the women’s announcements in Ankara were in Kurdish and Arabic as well as Turkish. Chants included: “Woman, life, freedom!” “Found Prince Charming and decided not to marry; got pregnant and decided not to have the baby.” In a direct affront to Erdoğan, the women yelled, “The bans are yours, March 8 is ours!” In addition they called for the overthrow of his Justice and Development Party.
From Istanbul’s Kadikoy district a video went viral showing a traditional middle-aged woman being pushed by a man who yells, “Go home, sit at home, send your men out here.” March organizer Gulsum Agaoglu of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party said the video
“was a turning point….First, the security forces told us we must go home. We did not.…They harassed us with slurs and sexually laden threats, but their tactics failed. Second, this parade received more attention when the security forces said ‘No slogans.’ Now everyone on social media knows at least three words in Kurdish, ‘Jin Jiyan Azadi’ (Woman, Life, Freedom)….It symbolized that the west of Turkey is not ignorant to the suffering of Kurdistan. Women from all groups want peace. Third, this is a women’s march. Women are told to stay out of sight, out of mind, not to laugh in public. We demonstrated with our colorful outfits and hopeful chants that there is solidarity among women, that we are visible.”
Implicit in the struggles of women worldwide is that very often, what they are fighting for cannot be realized under our present capitalist, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-trans system—a system which feeds on bigotry, division and hatred, and which, by its very nature, has an anti-human direction.
…Continued in Part III. Chinese labor in revolt…