Sunday, March 8, 2009

8 March: International Women's Day

Republicans, who used to be content with using "liberalism" like a swear word, have now taken to calling everything they dislike about Democrats and Washington "socialism" (we may have "Joe the Plumber" to thank for that). Because, as several conservative commentators pointed out in the wake of the election, a party built primarily on "social conservatism" cannot hope to command a majority under the present circumstances, "socialism" proves to be a handy catchall scare word perhaps capable of re-energizing and -uniting under the larger tent of the Republican Party those who "believe in limited government, individual rights, free market capitalism, a strong national defense, and the right to keep and bear arms."

Never mind that nothing being proposed by the new administration has anything to do with real "socialism" (don't tell anyone, but many of Barack Obama's positions in the campaign were in fact more conservative than Hillary Clinton's, more reliant on private initiative and private property). It's still worth taking the trouble to point out some of the many historical accomplishments of the socialist movements and social democratic parties.

One was concern for women's rights, long before the topic became fashionable. Even if most people no longer find his analysis completely compelling, Friedrich Engels thought it worthwhile to investigate the Origins of the Family in relation to the division of labor. August Bebel's Woman and Socialism, a bestseller among publications of the German Social Democrats, proclaimed:
The Socialist Party is the only one that has made the full equality of women, their liberation from every form of dependence and oppression, an integral part of its program; not for reasons of propaganda, but from necessity.
For there can be no liberation of mankind without social independence and equality of the sexes.
And it was also socialist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) who in 1910 called for a holiday to honor the accomplishments of women and promote the rights of women First celebrated on 19 March--the anniversary of the initial victory in the German Revolution of 1848--it has been marked on 8 March since 1913 and recognized by the United Nations since 1975.

Follow celebrations of International Women's Day 2009.

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