TQ Chāt | # 27

Mar 2015

This week in history:

This past week, we celebrated International Women’s Day.  We at Tanqeed remember the Socialist roots of the holiday, and stand with working women in Pakistan and across the world.

International Women’s Day was born out of the struggle for the rights of working class women in early 20th century United States. Supported by the Socialist Party of the United States, the movement found home in among Leftists, Communists and Socialists in continental Europe and Russia. The movement has since then been tragically politically enervated; shorn of its radical economic, feminist and anti-imperial roots, it is now championed by those who would have been its original adversaries.

Now, everyone from the pro-market PML-N to the World Bank celebrate International Women’s Day. In contrast, consider the remarks of Alexandra Kollontai, who wrote the definitive text of the early years of the movement:
“It was not in the interest of the bourgeoisie to strengthen the vote of the working class in parliament, and in every country they hindered the passing of laws that gave the right to working women… It was decided to have a Woman’s Day in every country as a form of struggle in getting working women to vote. This day was to be a day of international solidarity in the fight for common objectives and a day for reviewing the organized strength of working women under the banner of socialism.”

Consider this from Clara Zetkin, one of the women who carried the global movement in the second decade of the 20th century. Writing in the 1920 Communist International Statement, she (alongside others) says that  women will be free when they are “integrated into the social production of a new order free of exploitation and subjugation” and no longer “economically dependent on men” or on capitalists.

The Pakistani and US governments too were celebrating the day.

Consider this against the backdrop of politics of the 1915 International Socialist Women’s Conference in Bern, one of the most significant early progenitors of the contemporary celebration. Referencing World War One, the conference stated:
“The present war is, in substance, a struggle between Britain, France and Germany for the partition of colonies and for the plunder of rival countries; on the part of tsarism and the ruling classes of Russia, it is an attempt to seize Persia, Mongolia, Turkey in Asia, Constantinople, Galicia, etc.”

The conference debated whether to actively subvert the war, but could not achieve consensus. In the end, it issued a strident denunciation of the imperial war. Today, the very governments most complicit in imperial adventures are posing for photo-ops on International Women’s Day.

We at Tanqeed reflect sadly that what began as a radical feminist movement has now become staple holiday of those actively opposed to its original ends. We will continue to work hard towards goals consonant with its noble roots.


if Tanqeed’s radical feminist project falters, here is a sketch of Plan B

This week in the Internet:

How Liberalism and Racism Are Wed

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

Rumi for the New-Age Soul: Coleman Barks and the Problems of Popular Translations

Fear of a Muslim Planet

Indian feminists, ‘India’s daughter’, and sexual violence: The issues at stake*

How America Was Misled on alQaeda’s Demise

“Much of what we believe is manufactured dogma”

How the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Fought Against the Partition of India

International Women’s Day — An Interview of Alexandra Kollontai

The Communist Women’s Movement 1921–26

Women's Action Front in Pakistan. Picture taken in Lahore in October 1982

Women’s Action Front in Pakistan. Picture taken in Lahore in October 1982

This week at Tanqeed:

خانے! — غزل نما تبصرہ

and for International Women’s Day from the last few weeks at our fantastic new blog Feministaniat:

Majboori Da

Imperialist Baji


One Response to TQ Chāt | # 27

  1. Lala Rukh on Mar 2015 at 2:47 AM

    Thank you for an excellent critique of the cooption of International Women’s Day.
    May I point out that the photograph of the WAF National Convention published
    wiyh the piece is without credits. This photo was taken by me with a
    timer, I am the one in front reclining, and is part of the photo archives of
    WAF. It was first published by The Friday Times under the heading:
    Lala Rukh’s photo archive, a few years ago. Subsequently it has been
    reproduced several times again without giving credit and at least once
    where some one else was credited. This is for the record.
    Lala Rukh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *