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March 8 is the 104th anniversary of the start of the Russian Revolution, sparked by a violent worker's strike that was among the catalysts for the toppling of the monarchy, the regicide of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, and the beginnings of communism's iron rule that laid the groundwork for the Soviet Union, with its mass starvations, torture and executions of millions under Joseph Stalin.
March 8 also happens to be International Women's Day — and the two dates aren't coincidental. In fact, they are closely linked: Women's Day has its earliest roots in the socialist movement that led directly to the bloody overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the implementation of communism — and it's what many women unwittingly celebrate today when they wish one another "Happy Women's Day."
The International Conference of Socialist Women met for the first time in 1907 in Stuttgart, Germany, specifically aligning itself with socialists and rejecting what it dismissed as "the women's bourgeois movement."
Three years later, its next conference, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, again urged women to unite under the socialist banner. "We urgently call on all the socialist parties and organizations of socialist women as well as on all the working women's organizations standing on the foundation of the class struggle to send their delegates to this conference," read its call to action.
In 1909, the Socialist Party of America designated February 28 "Women's Day" — an act mimicked by the International Conference the next year, which also declared an annual Women's Day. The proposal was ratified by 100 female delegates from 17 countries, and the resolution read:
In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade union organizations of the proletariat of their respective countries, socialist women of all nationalities have to organize a special Women's Day [Frauentag], which must, above all, promote the propaganda of female suffrage. This demand must be discussed in connection with the whole woman's question, according to the socialist conception.
These women sought far more than merely the right to vote; their vision of women's rights encompassed childcare rights, rights to work, education, divorce, contraception (which later morphed into the right to abortion access), with its ultimate aim no less than the overthrow of capitalism, replaced with a socialist government.
In fact, members of the International Conference of Socialist Women took part in the worker's strike of March 8, 1917, where demonstrators took to the streets of Petrograd demanding bread, the end of Russia's involvement in the war, and the toppling of the tsarist regime. Nearly 100,000 took part, with angry mobs attacking police stations.
This led months later to the October Uprising, an armed insurrection that overtook the government by force, brutally executing the entire royal family, and establishing the communist regime. Every year from then on, March 8 was declared a national holiday to commemorate the beginnings of the Russian Revolution, with the accompanying slogan "All Power to the Councils! All Power to Socialism!"
Fast forward to 1977, and the United Nations invited member states to celebrate March 8. An official website for International Women's Day was set up in 2001, and this year, radical feminists (the same group that coordinated the D.C. Women's March) are encouraging a women's walk-out to accompany Women's Day — a worldwide women's strike to force the world to appreciate the role the female sex plays in day-to-day life.
International Women's Day has thus come full circle, starting out as a strike of female socialists in 1917 Russia and, 100 years to the day, culminating in a worldwide women's strike organized by angry feminists. Whereas the original women's day had specific, clearly defined aims, today's Women's Day and its accompanying walk-out has little discernible purpose — other than as an expression of petulant rage against the amorphous, nameless, faceless monster known as "the patriarchy."
Originally published on March 8, 2017