The woman’s struggle for freedom is intertwined with the worker’s and peasant’s struggle against exploitation. In the Philippines, the semi-feudal and semi-colonial order maintains the systemic maltreatment of women to intensify the accumulation of profit by big landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie.
Is it not the landlords and bourgeoisie who withhold from women opportunities to set themselves free from the prison of house work, to force men to focus their labor power on production? Is it not the landlords and the bourgeoisie who make up the ruling class that holds the state by the neck? Is it not the state that withholds public machinery and social services that can respond to the needs of women for their freedom?
Rooted in socialism
As International Working Women’s Day approaches, we must remind ourselves of the occasion’s radical beginnings. The seed of a day devoted to women was first planted in 1907 when the International Conference of Socialist Women was established in Stuttgart, Germany. In this gathering, circumstances of education, property, and taxes were considered barriers to the political participation of women, the right to suffrage or participate in elections included.
It was in the USA that the first Women’s Day would be launched by socialists in 1909. Then in 1910, Clara Zetkin of the German socialist movement would propose at the Second International Conference of Working Women that Women’s Day be celebrated internationally; she was backed by a hundred female delegates from all over the world. And so the date for International Working Women’s Day was set on March 19, 1911—a date deliberately chosen to remember the 1848 revolution when, in the words of Alexandra Kollontai, “the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising.” Women’s suffrage was among the king’s failed promises.
Upon the suggestion of other socialists, the date would be moved to the last Sunday of February—a free day that allowed more workers to join in. Its celebration in 1917 in Russia—February 23 in the Julian calendar and March 8 in the Gregorian calendar—would prove historic: It sparked the proletarian-led Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution that overthrew the feudal Tsarist order, and would serve as the foundation of the socialist revolution to come.
Bread and peace for Filipino women
The demand made by the working women of Russia then was “bread and peace.” It was a call to end both widespread hunger and the imperialist war the country had at the time been plunged in. Over a century later, the demand continues to ring true in the Philippines—food security and peace. Both can be achieved by the anti-feudal struggle for #LandToTheTillers.
Since Duterte came to power, 247 peasants have fallen victim to extra-judicial killings. 34 of them are women. Most of them are martyrs of the peasant movement—killed for their membership in civilian organizations that advanced genuine agrarian reform as the means to end feudal bondage. Seven out of 10 farmers remain landless—outrageous for an agricultural country known for the wealth of its land—and the struggle to take back land first seized by colonizers has been shedding the blood of peasants for centuries.
Peasant women are bound to landlessness twice over: On top of withholding land from peasant women, the state also withholds state machinery and social services that could empower them to till the land that should be in their possession. Yet peasant women are at the forefront of the struggle for national democracy. Countless peasant associations are chaired by women, and women are at the helm of the movement known nationwide as “bungkalan”—a militant campaign to occupy disputed land for farmers to assert their ownership of it, and employ the methods of organic agro-ecology in growing food for both subsistence and income. This struggle for survival is both anti-feudal and anti-imperialist; anti-feudal because it seeks to take back land grabbed by landlords, anti-imperialist because it seeks to provide food for local communities rather than yield high-value crops for the world market.
Babae, Babawi! A tribute to the women who take back our land
On March 6, 2020, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo along with different peasant organizations will hold “Babae, Babawi!” a tribute to the women of the peasant movement, featuring female musicians and women-fronted bands. Female tattoo artists will also be present. Between performances by The General Strike, Sleep Kitchen, Identikit, BP Valenzuela, Alyana Cabral, The Shocking Details, and Megumi Acorda, mass leaders and peasant women advocates share messages of solidarity to this indispensable sector of the struggle for national democracy. A candle-lighting ceremony will also take place, with 34 flowers lain on the ground to honor the 34 peasant women killed under the Duterte regime. Kalayalayaang Kombo ng mga Kababaihan caps the night with an open jam.
“Babae, Babawi!” takes place at Catch 272, 41-B T. Gener Street, Kamuning, Quezon City. The gig begins at 7pm. The entrance fee is pay-as-you-can. Merchandise from SAKA and other peasant organizations will be available for sale. All proceeds from the gate, as well as from tattoo services and the merchandise, will go to furthering the campaign to #StopKillingFarmers and for #FreeLandDistribution. If you wish to attend, SAKA has put up a Facebook event page where you can confirm your attendance: https://www.facebook.com/events/347265116157458/