From Spain, from the 8M organising committee of the strike,and Spain’s CNT anarcho-syndicalist labour union.
Originally published by Autonomies.
About us: Feminist Strike 8M
The origin of the feminist strike 8M
(How the feminist strike arose in the Spanish State)
Here in the Spanish State we witness the outbreak of this new feminist wave all over the world with emotion and illusion.
When in 2014, after huge mobilisations to defend the right to abortion, we managed not only to paralyse the bill that was going to penalise the voluntary interruption of pregnancy once again – and which sought to make us move back from an abortion on demand law to one with only 2 circumstances – but also to get the minister who had promoted it to resign. Many of us thought then that the rise of feminism had been something punctual, motivated by a concrete struggle that united us women against a common threat, but that would not go any further.
At that time, there were still no structures to coordinate the feminist movement at state level, a drive for self-organization had not been set in motion from below, and the few spaces with the capacity for political initiative were partly hijacked by the institutional and conformist logics of institutionalized feminisms, which in our country, and by the particular circumstances of the so-called “Spanish Transition” period (at the end of the 1970s), had become hegemonic.
Three years later, in 2017, we observed with admiration and desire the call for the International Women’s Strike (PIM/IWS), promoted by Latin American and Polish sisters who managed to coordinate a global action in which more than 50 countries participated. At that moment we saw it as something that was happening out there, to which we, due to the concrete characteristics of the feminist movement of the Spanish state, could not join. The recently formed local activist groups, very numerous but not very politicized and without connection between them, integrated by a mixture of very young girls with groups of older feminists and coming from the Transition were accustomed to always repeat the same formulas. And yet, after March 8, 2017, several feminist groups began to ask ourselves: Why not? Why not us? Why don’t we also build a Feminist Strike here?
At the end of the summer, the first State Meeting Towards the Feminist Strike was held in Elche (Alicante), attended by some 150 women. The companions from Zaragoza then took on the responsibility of organising a second state meeting, which would take place in January 2018, and which was attended by more than 500 participants. It was there that we decided that on March 8, 2018, we would go on strike, the feminist strike.
The strike: concept
One of the most important aspects for us has been the theoretical development of a new concept and its praxis: the feminist strike. A feminist strike is not simply a women’s strike, it also goes beyond a general strike; it is a strike that goes beyond the limits of the classic strike.
The limitations of a classic strike to appeal for women’s issues are basically two:
- A large number of women work in irregular or extremely precarious conditions that, in practice, make it almost impossible to exercise the right to strike. Among migrant women, this number is even higher.
- Most of the work carried out by women does not take place in the labour market but in the home. Reproductive work takes up most of our time, whether or not we have a job.
For this reason, the feminist strike is proposed so that women stop in all spheres, not only in paid work, and for this we organize ourselves in four axes: labour strike, student (education) strike, consumer strike, and care strike.
The strike: care
From the very beginning, our main challenge has been to trigger the care strike. First, because of its important political dimension, because it points directly to the gendered structure of capitalism. But also because talking about care has allowed us to connect with many previously non-politicized women who have begun to understand, for the first time, that what they do is extremely important to society.
During preparations of the feminist strike several actions were taken to reach all women. For example, we distributed pamphlets in markets and schools, translated the propaganda into several languages (Arabic, Romanian, Chinese…), held meetings with groups of housewives and organized public meetings in neighborhoods and villages. The result was of an enormous participation in the movement’s assemblies by women who had never been politically involved before.
The feminist strike, therefore, connects directly with the struggles of social reproduction that characterize the new international feminist movement, and raises questions of vital importance: how to stop care, how to stop the reproduction of life, is it possible to do so? And what’s more: do we women, as the social construct in charge of the reproduction of life, want to do it? All these questions are relevant for two reasons:
- The sustainability of life, the material conditions which make life possible, rest on the shoulders of women, especially certain sectors of women. “If we stop, life falls” is much, much more than a slogan.
- Our objective cannot simply be to make reproductive work visible, but to push towards a radical transformation of the social structure.
Experiences developed in different localities, such as children’s spaces self-managed by support groups (formed by men), collective dining halls in squares, meetings in neighbourhoods to walk together in the case of women with elderly people in their care and many other initiatives such as these allow us to imagine that there is another possible way to organize care, whose management is social and political, never more individual and private, hidden, exposed to invisibilization and abuse and violence.
The strike: labour
Equally laborious has been the process of building the labour strike. It is important to point out that, despite the mockery, insinuations, looks over the shoulder and not being taken seriously by many people, the feminist movement in Spain has been able to force the trade union left to call a General Strike for two consecutive years and to build it despite the opposition of the bureaucracies and trade union leaderships.
The feminist strike is a powerful school of unionism and class struggle for many women who have organised assemblies in their companies, given informative talks and organised pickets without any previous experience and without the logistical help of the main unions. The number of women who have gone on strike for the first time in their lives is gigantic, and we hope to improve it this year, in the 2019 feminist strike.
It is important to understand this point because it helps to understand the specific role the international feminist movement is having in the processes of class recomposition and the struggle for life, since it decisively influences the proliferation of what one companion has called “union struggles of social reproduction,” that is: labour struggles led for and by women who, in addition to defending labour rights and demanding the dignity of feminized sectors, are serving to highlight the sexual division of labour, make visible the social care crisis and show the contradiction Capital vs. life.
In general terms, it is possible to affirm that feminism has become the main vector of politicization and awareness for millions of people around the world.
The 8M Feminist Strike and the International Women’s Strike do not come out of nowhere, but are a milestone (especially important because of the qualitative leap they represent) of a much broader process: the global expansion of the feminist movement as the first vector of politicization of social conflict around the world, and which is able to break through and keep alive revolutionary energy, even at times of significant social ebb and despite carrying within it deeply anti-capitalist intuitions.
Although very important, it is no longer only a question of the type of demands that we could call “sectoral” (such as the campaign for the right to abortion in Poland, in Ireland, in Spain itself in 2014 or, more recently, in Argentina and all of Latin America), but of something much bigger: protests against ultra-right and/or proto-fascist governments (the first Women’s March in the United States or the campaign #EleNão in Brazil), struggles for the defence of territory and the environment (COPINH, Honduras), renewal of the union bases… It is possible to state that feminism has become a nutrient and driving force of social protest, we are living a sort of “feminization of the avant-garde”, and it is in this context where the 8M Feminist Strike appears.
In a way, the 8M Feminist Strike in Spain is the last manifestation of a different type of conflict that emerged with the 15M or the outraged movement (2011), and that has its correlation in the Arab springs or the international movement Occupy. 15M is the school of activism in which the generation that is now mostly organizing and coordinating the feminist strike has been politically educated. The three main slogans of the time are quite symptomatic: “real democracy now” (denouncing the electoral system and bipartisanship), “we are the youth without a future – without a house, without a job, without a pension, without fear” (encompassing the struggles against poverty wages and the destruction of public education and for the right to housing and in defence of pensions) and “we are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers”. All that established a reservoir of methodological experiences and programmatic intuitions now visible through the process of building resistance around the feminist strike.
A few weeks ago the V State Meeting of the 8M Commission was held in Valencia, in which issues such as the repeal of the Law on Foreigners, the closure of the CIEs (Immigration Detention Centres), the right to housing and the fight against energy poverty were debated. This is precisely where the key lies: to build a feminism that does not only speak of feminism, but that puts the reproduction of life in the centre and that carries the motto “our lives are worth more than their profits” as its ultimate goal.
This 8M and always: anarcho-feminism as a spearhead in the antifascist struggle
The CNT union calls for fighting patriarchy in all its forms, both on the street and in the workplace.
The National Confederation of Labor (CNT) on this 8M, the Day of Working Women, asks all to join forces around the anti-fascist struggle. Feminism will be the spearhead that ends this weapon of repression, inequality and hatred, which is increasingly stronger in institutions and in public discourse. Against this, anarcho-syndicalist union demands that diversity and transversality be the engine of a class and combative feminism, which breaks the fence of uniformity that capitalism, patriarchy and fascism claim.
Domestic workers, women migrants, trans, racialised, pensioners, workers, qualified or not … we are all called to a struggle that is for the rights of all but also for a better society. Feminism as a wall against fascism. Something that has always existed but that, today more than ever, it is necessary to remember. We will not stop hearing speeches about the priorities of one movement or another, about what separates us, what sets us apart, but we must be clear that the common enemy is what it is: that which wants us to be retaliated against, precarious, without rights and isolated.
Therefore, this 8M, as in the previous ones, the CNT goes out into the streets to demand equity in the jobs, the repeal of the labor reforms that especially undermine women workers, denouncing the exploitation and the violation of rights especially in the so-called “feminised” work sectors, demanding recognition as a professional disease of those ailments that occur in these sectors and that are not recognised for affecting women mostly, claiming the incorporation of domestic work at the same level as the other jobs, denouncing the violent unemployment suffered by trans people, the helplessness in which the immigration law leaves our migrant comrades, the discrimination and stereotyping suffered by people racialised in labor and society, rejecting the fallacies of progress under capitalist feminism and struggling for decent pensions for both women who have contributed financially, as well as those who worked in the home, giving a face to those who have no choice but to subsist in the underground economy.
We will continue to be on the front line of action and fighting hand to hand with the rest of the feminist movement so that care or motherhood is not a brake for women. We believe that extending maternity and paternity leave is not enough to make life the center of the economy and not the market. Therefore, we demand that it is the market that adapts to life to build a society with values. We want real and effective help for minors under care, as well as for family members or dependents for whom we are responsible. Common responsibility for care with our male comrades, a greater presence of women in representative positions, giving us visibility in social and militant organisations, as well as in unions. Starting with ours.
We want to be the drop that overflows the tide that ends sexist violence. From jobs, at home and on the street, against harassment of any kind or threats that endanger the human rights of more than half of the population, with which CNT is committed as the anarcho-syndicalist, class, anti-militarist, antifascist and feminist organisation that we are.
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