Cross-border feminism and socialist revolution

May 2020 Women S Africa (BBC)
September 2019 march protesting violence against women in Durban, South Africa. (BBC)


The world crisis of capitalism is more obvious to more people than ever before. The pandemic has revealed the horrific lengths to which the world’s ruling classes will go in their efforts to preserve profits, with human suffering barely considered. But the result has not only been suffering. We have also seen the rise of heroic resistance to pandemic disaster capitalism. And nowhere has that resistance to mass working-class death been more inspiring than among the mostly women and gender non-conforming care and health workers around the world.

This is not surprising. Because working women, well before the pandemic, have demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to struggle. From Poland to Argentina, from Turkey to Chile, women have been organizing massive one-day strikes around March 8. These “women’s strikes” against domestic servitude have grown to involve immigrant and low-wage women in their millions, and in some cases won the support of major national trade-union confederations who turned women’s strikes into actual one-day general strikes in Italy and other nations.

Perhaps no mobilization of women was as historic as that of the women in Chile during last fall’s uprising against the Piñera government. It is these women who in the last few months have initiated a global network of activists from the women’s strike movement and urged a worldwide response, not just to the pandemic but also to the accompanying economic crisis. This network aims to make sure that the gendered impact of the current crisis is understood everywhere.

Together we created the, “Cross-Border Feminist Manifesto: Emerge From the Pandemic Together and Change the System.” It was written by 50 womxn and LGBTQI+ folks from 20 countries, including Ecuador, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, United States, Italy, France, and Kurdistan.

The Manifesto marks an important moment in the cross-border feminist movement towards the global solidarity of the working class. It outlines how this pandemic further exposes capitalism’s systematic exploitation of the most vulnerable during this crisis, namely working-class women and gender-non-conforming people who are essential workers, people of color, women, LGBTQI+, Indigenous persons, people who are detained or imprisoned, and immigrants and migrants. In this way, the Manifesto understands the crisis of this pandemic as something that is deeply connected to the struggle against capitalism, patriarchy, racism, imperialism, and colonialism.

For example, persons in Gaza have been under militarized lockdown and occupation for nearly two decades. And the struggle for Palestinian liberation against Israeli Occupation is made more precarious by the virus in which Palestinian COVID testing sites are shut down by Israeli forces, Palestinians are continuing to be imprisoned and detained, and persons living in Gaza are denied medical care and supplies.

The Manifesto outlines the struggles faced by Indigenous communities and Native peoples, migrants, immigrants, refugees, persons living in Kurdistan and Occupied Palestine, and imprisoned persons. It highlights how these groups’ ongoing struggles for liberation are made all the more vulnerable during this pandemic. For example, capitalism and neoliberalism are reflected in the militarization and over-policing of urban and rural environments and of Indigenous territories, where armed forces are taking advantage of the pandemic to further terrorize people.

For this reason and many more, the document starts by saying, “We will not go back to normality, because normality was the problem,” outlining how the crisis of the pandemic reveals and intensifies gender and racially based violence and the hierarchies and structural roots of oppression, exploitation, and inequality of colonial, capitalist patriarchy. This can be seen in the increasing rates of femicides, domestic violence, and violence against LGBTQI+ persons all over the world since this pandemic began. Stay-at-home orders in the context of domestic violence can be life threatening. High rates of COVID in prisons, jails, and detention facilities, where the majority of prisoners in the U.S. and around the world are people of color, highlights the underlying discrimination of mass incarceration.

Moreover, in many cases the crisis of the pandemic is being used to further restrict sexual and reproductive rights of women and LGBTQI+ people, such as in Texas and Alabama, where abortion has been outlawed during the pandemic. In regards to racial disparity, Black, indigenous, and Latinx populations in the United States are dying and testing higher for COVID due to structural, racial, and class inequalities that put People of Color more at risk in their day-to-day lives. In this way, we see that capitalism and racism are the public health crises. So while coronavirus affects all of us, the effects of the pandemic are differentiated based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, documentation status, etc. This is why the crisis of the pandemic demands a cross-border feminist response.

The Manifesto also situates the crisis of the pandemic within the context of the global ecological crisis, asserting that the environmental and ecological devastation brought on by capitalism and imperialism has led to the imbalances that have allowed the spread of epidemics like coronavirus through widespread extraction of natural resources, industrial and large-scale production of food, single-crop farming, and pollution.

The Manifesto outlines how this crisis makes more precarious women’s and LGBTQI+ people’s productive and socially reproductive labor. It states, “The capitalist patriarchal system assigns the care of the most vulnerable, the elders and the children, to women, increasing the burden of domestic care work. Simultaneously, many women workers—nurses, janitors, grocery store workers, cashiers, farmworkers, pharmacists—have to be on the frontline of this emergency, working long hours in hazardous conditions, and often for miserable wages. Unwaged and precarious labor is strained, and domestic and care workers are struggling to pay for food, medical care, housing, etc. In this way, women and LGBTQI+ people’s lives are sacrificed to sustain the crisis, while at the same time bodies that are deemed ‘unproductive,’ as well as people with disabilities, are invisible and unprotected.”

Additionally, the document outlines and rejects the neoliberal measures all over the world that have led to austerity and the privatization of health care, social systems, and education. This means rejecting the trillion-dollar bailouts to banks that support the 1% and private companies that profit from the pandemic. The Manifesto states, “Although state measures are heterogeneous, the capitalist response to the crisis follows the same logic everywhere in the world: putting profits before our lives and unloading on the working class the costs of this crisis. This is why we want a cross-border feminist way out of the crisis, so that we will not return to a normality structured by inequality and violence.”

The Manifesto highlights how working-class people worldwide are “protesting to denounce the increase of femicides and domestic violence. Domestic workers are denouncing their extreme insecurity and lack of rights. Nurses and doctors are protesting the lack of protective equipment. Thousands of workers in warehouses and factories are going on strike because they refuse to sacrifice their health for corporate profits. Indigenous women continue to fight against the theft and destruction of their sovereign land. In every jail and prison, the detained are decrying inhumane conditions in an extremely racist prison-industrial complex.

“Everywhere, Black people are denouncing institutional racism in the management of the pandemic and migrants are resisting immigrant detention facilities and policies that harm migrant workers. Sex workers continue to demand the decriminalization of their jobs so that they are no longer excluded from social welfare or stigmatized by the patriarchal colonial capitalist system. In Rojava, Kurdish women in the midst of an historic resistance to war are responding to the pandemic by cross-border strengthening of their confederal self-organization, as well as community health and expanded networks of self-managed and ecological economies.”

These examples illuminate the ways in which women and LGBTQI+ persons are responding to the pandemic and fighting for a collective liberation that must be inherently anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial. We cannot continue to repeat harm caused by past feminist movements and white, transphobic, liberal feminism, which has neglected the degree to which racism, ethno-nationalism, gender identity, classism and imperialism shape the experience of misogyny for the majority of women and gender non-conforming persons of this world.

As revolutionary socialists, we need a working-class movement that is cross-border and lived and led by working-class women and gender non-conforming persons. A movement that puts at the forefront the specific needs of those who carry the heaviest burden of social reproduction—that is, women and gender non-conforming people who make up half our class. Without doing so, we will never make a revolution. We understand that there will be no class struggle left if it is not rooted in the ideals of eliminating women’s oppression.

Revolutions are made by the working class in its vast majority, with its most combative sectors, often women, at the lead. Revolutions must be supported by a thousand strands of community and social organizations maintained by women who channel and unleash the rage of centuries of oppression, showing us another world is possible. Today, the highly militant mobilizations of young women around the world signify that we are entering a new period of class struggle that may just place the prospect of socialist revolution on the horizon.

The new networks of revolutionary women are spaces in which the desperately important work of revolutionary socialist regroupment must take place. I hope that you all join us there—today to fight pandemic capitalism, tomorrow to build a new world party of revolution.



Leave a Reply