Here's a toast to all the triumphs of working-class women and men across the globe in 2011! It was a year of rebellion fomented from the bottom. Working mothers and public employees facing endless service and wage cuts joined with students and young people confronting terminal joblessness to shake the very pillars of society.
From ousting tyrants in Egypt and Tunisia, to massive strikes in Europe, to the Occupy Everywhere movement that swept across the U.S., revolutionary fervor raged.
And, not surprisingly, women led the fight. Who can forget the gripping video of Asmaa Mahfouz exhorting her fellow Egyptians to come to Tahrir Square? Or the thousands of women marching in Cairo last week to protest police and soldier brutality? Or the battle waged by teachers, many of them women of color, along with concerned parents and community members, to provide quality public education in the U.S. that is accessible to all.
After all, cuts to social services always hit women — as caregivers of the elderly, the sick and the young — the hardest. With out-of-control unemployment and no hope for a change in sight, capitalists and their apologist politicians created a pressure cooker of misery and resentment that was bound to blow. The past year saw endless attacks on women's rights, including insidious attempts to declare a fertilized egg a person.
Arizona, Alabama and other states have terrorized immigrants, with or without papers, with repressive laws. And public employees continue to be blamed for the economic crisis caused by Wall Street and politicos from both sides of the aisle.
As the economic crisis has worsened, it has become crystal clear that the 1% minority is thriving at the expense of everyone else. “We are the 99%” resonates because it’s true. People hit the streets out of necessity and, in doing so, learned they did have the power to change their world.
Of course, unlike Hollywood movies, remaking society is chaotic, and there are inevitable bumps in the road.
What 2011 underscored was the importance of deciding what kind of change we are fighting for. The Occupy movement, in many places, has been unwilling to hammer out a political program and stance; instead of thrashing out demands, activists have spent time on a vast array of organizational questions. If the occupiers don’t set an agenda, the movement will be derailed.
Already there is a push in the Occupy movement to “get out the vote” for Obama or whatever local Democrat is running for election in 2012. As if the Democrats aren't half of the problem! Under the current administration, there have been over 1 million immigrants deported, trillions of dollars spent on corporate bailouts, and severe backtracking on women's reproductive health rights. The 99% needs real change — not more of the same.
That being said, the working-class majority of the 99% is not a homogeneous group. Democracy, and addressing the demands of those on the bottom, is imperative. Women and people of color formed caucuses at Occupies because problems of racism, sexism, ageism and homophobia, inside the movement and in society as a whole, need to be confronted in an open fashion. And people of color, women, queers, youth and unionists need to be in the political leadership of any working-class movement with the power to make the fundamental changes we all need.
Radical Women believes it’s time for change at the roots. It’s important to fight for here-and-now things, like much-needed taxes on big corporations and the wealthy, but we always need to keep an eye on the prize — a sane, clean, safe, socialist feminist future. A world where people, animals, plants, and the earth itself can survive and thrive. Working women and men make the wealth. We make everything. We should be able to use it in the interests of all.
As always, RW was in the streets this year. Our members, with a huge cadre of supporters, co-workers, unionists and community activists, brought a unique socialist feminist analysis and demands to local, national and international battles. We marched for safe streets; fought for progressive taxes that would shift the burden off the backs of working people and onto those who can most afford to pay; spoke out against politicians on both sides of the aisle who continued to scapegoat immigrants for the ills of a failing economic system; defended teachers and public workers and demanded fully funded public education for all; stood tall against right wing bigots in defense of abortion rights; helped occupy cities and towns across the U.S. and in Melbourne, Australia, and participated in strikes, walk outs, marches, rallies and so much more.
So, let’s raise a glass to the shoe leather that was worn down and sleep that was lost, and to the friendships and comrades-in-arms that were won!
If 2011 taught us anything, it’s that believing in the power of people, the power of ideas, and the power of revolution is not a dream. These wonderful, exhilarating realities are playing out across the globe, and we aim to help them grow.
Join us! There's always room for more movers and shakers! You can learn more about RW's theory and program by reading The Radical Women Manifesto. Check out www.radicalwomen.org to learn what the chapter in your city is doing, and get involved. If we don't have a chapter in your area, contact RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com about building one. And you can help us continue our work by donating here.
¡Adelante! Onward to 2012!
National Executive Committee