Revolutionary Speaking – President’s Weekly Column – Volume 1 Issue 22

Vol 1: Issue 22
03 March 2023
If you asked an average South African about the significance of 8 March in international politics, you would be lucky if you got anyone who knew or remembered anything about that date. 8 March is the date that is commemorated worldwide, except in South Africa, as the International Women’s Day. Tragically, not many women’s organisations in South Africa remember 8 March.
That is not the only date of struggle significance that South Africa ignores and pushes into oblivion. 25 May (Afrika Liberation Day) suffers a similar fate. Both 8 March and 25 May are commemorated by a few political forces without much interest from the media.
Except the isolated push by former President Thabo Mbeki for an “African Renaissance”, South Africa is generally cold to anything Afrikan.  Ironically, this attitude is the perpetuation of the racist stance of the white settler colonial regime who saw their “white nation” as “citizens of the First World in the Third World”. You wouldn’t expect Black people to do to themselves what racists did to them.  Yet self-hatred on the part of the ruling Black elite ensures that South Africa deems itself as an “amper baas” (almost boss) in comparison to fellow Afrikan countries. You do not need an explanation of the terms “amper baas” and “klein baas” if you are a Black person who lived under settler-colonialism and its apartheid.
But why would South Africa adopt an erasing attitude towards 8 March? What we know is that the ruling party opted to grant precedence to the 20 000 strong Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956. That event took place on 9 August. The point upon which to reflect here is that South Africa chose to be national chauvinistic. It is perhaps understandable because the Women’s March organised by the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was a resounding success in making a statement that women were not about to fold arms and be passive about the oppression of Black women and Black people in general. The Women’s March was triggered by the Native Laws Amendment Act, which sought to restrict movement and access to the migrant labour areas by Black women. You could say the March was part of a fight against the racist attempt to destroy the Black family.
Could that be enough to highlight 9 August at the expense of 8 March? I don’t think so. I take the view that South Africa ought to have recognised and commemorated 8 March without neglecting 9 August. Well, it is not unlikely that some national chauvinists could argue that 8 March 1857 was initially a narrow and isolated garment women workers’ protest in the New York textile industry. That industrial action came and went. There was never any significant reference to it in the global political circles until the Socialist Party of America organised what it called the “National Women’s Day” on 28 February 1909. Coincidentally, this event was held in the same New York where women workers embarked on an industrial action on 8 March 1857. It is believed that the “National Women’s Day” was inspired by 8 March.
If the “National Women’s Day” was coined by socialists in remembrance of an anti-capitalist action by women industrial workers, it was the International Socialist Women’s Conference in August 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark that brought up the idea of an “International Women’s Day”. They were inspired by the previous year’s “National Women’s Day” by socialists in New York. The New York socialists were in turn inspired by the 8 March 1857 industrial action by garment women workers in New York. Though the 1910 Copenhagen Conference was not prescriptive on the date on which to commemorate the International Women’s Day, there was global unanimity in the march of time that the 8 March was the appropriate date on which the commemoration should fall.
The difference between 9 August and 8 March is way too remarkable not to notice. As a response to white racism, the South African one has a race or nationalist touch to it, whereas the New York one leans in the direction of an industrial action by women activists. However, that difference is artificial and redundant because what remains is the fact that all these actions were geared at fighting for the liberation of women.
The ignoring of 8 March in South Africa has a negative effect of dissociating the South African women from the rest of the women of the world. Yet 8 March provides the women of all nations a common global platform for forging a formidable Sister Solidarity and networking. Women are presented with a positive opportunity to transcend their narrow national confines towards appreciating the experiences of fellow women in other nations. That helps to consolidate the struggle in both the national and international fronts. Women of stronger nations and more resources may be in a position to support and publicise the struggles of women in weaker nations and depleted resources. Women Internationalism needs to be promoted over and above the narrow national confines. It is in that way that the women of the world will be in a position to pool their resources and maximise their impact against patriarchy, sexism, and male chauvinism.
Because Azania was under siege by white settler-colonialism, and now neo-colonialism, it becomes important for the women to anchor their struggles on a clear ideological base. In terms of race and class interests, not all women are women. Some women have become instruments of imperialism, capitalism, racism, and colonialism against fellow oppressed and exploited women. That explains why white women were, and continue to be, in a better economic position than both the majority of Black women and men.
As determined by white racism, the belonging of the white woman to the white race meant that their interests could be diametrically opposed to those of Black women. A Black woman who singles out and chooses Gender Oppression at the expense of Race Oppression and Class Oppression is dangerous to the struggle for Land, Liberation and Socialism. That woman could find herself spending her energy against Black Solidarity. It is easy for that woman to divert the energies of Black women and mobilise them against Black men. In this scenario, Black women and men relegate to the background the fundamental problems of landlessness and racism and treat one another as enemies to the delight of racists and land thieves. Yet Black women and men have to close ranks and confront their common enemy.
With that said, the national recognition and commemoration of 8 March should also not erase 9 August. Fortunately, 9 August is already a National Holiday in South Africa. However, international women’s solidarity should be held sacrosanct by the women of South Africa. The country and the people should resist the temptation of degenerating into exceptionalism. We are an integral part of Afrika and the masses of the world. Azania is not situated to the South of Afrika. It is part of Afrika.