Clara Zetkin

The International Communist Women’s Day

(February 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 18, 8 March 1922, pp. 129–130.
Transcription & HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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Storms of enthusiasm greeted the motion of our Bulgarian comrades and the resolution of the Second International Conference of Communist Women at Moscow, to celebrate Women’s Day everywhere on March 8th, the day which previously was observed only by Russian comrades. Hearts beat wildly, eyes had a far-off look, and the will to do dauntlessly rose supreme. Memory flew back to the fact that it was the monster demonstration of the Petrograd proletarian women for peace and liberty which on March 8th, 1917, ushered in the Russian Revolution. The knowledge and will of the 82 representatives of the Communist women of 28 nationalities formed them into a great, unified, resolute body. Our International Women’s Day this year must become a giant recruiting of the broad masses to Communism and it must be an irresistible battle-cry against the bourgeois order and for the seizure of power by the proletariat. It must show that we Communists not only will but also can, can act. Now is the time to swear our silent but binding oath, in order to make the will a living deed.

The present hour binds thereto. What the capitalists begin in one country, nationally, they continue internationally – the effort to set up again and fortify for all times the capitalistic economy which is torn apart and decayed because of the world war and its after-effects. Not due to the strength of this historical economic system. No indeed. Merely at the cost of the bloody exploitation and most rigorous enslavement of the proletariat, the producing people.

The bourgeoisie of all countries has shown during its imperialistic war and in the years that followed that it has neither the capacity nor the will to condue [sic] and manage for the general good the fabulous forces of production which have been developed under its rule. It can only paralyze them and neglect them through the misery of crises and the crimes of war, and bring them to destruction and ruin. Capitalism cannot, like the traditional phoenix, rise from the flames and ashes of the world war into a new life, rejuvenated. It is weak when it comes to chain the chaos that it has unloosed, but it is really powerless to cause a new, higher, material and cultural existence for all blossom from the ruins. It can still go on in the humdrum way with the result that it will transform a minority of millionaires into billionaires, satisfied idlers overfed with culture and bread and triflers with scientific, artistic and social merit into squandering degenerates.

The developments towards the abyss, cannot be arrested by the meetings of the diplomatic tribe, the politicians, captains of industry, and kings of finance, with their buzzing and whispering, with the false secret treaties, and their clenched fists against the working-class. They will remain real in spite of the prophecies of those tired and afraid of revolution, who see nothing on the historical horizon but a rebirth of capitalism and its order. Just as nobody can leap over his shadow, capitalism is unable to swing itself over the boundaries of its existence. Its wonderful and well-known “adaptability” to higher forms of organization has shattered on its unyielding nature as an individual and anarchistic profit economy. The historical hour of capitalism has passed. It must yield to Socialism and Communism, the necessary prerequisites for which have been generated within its own breast.

This assurance is not a blissful faith but an unshakable, scientific well-grounded knowledge of social facts, associations and laws of evolution. In the midst of the terrible distress and the bitter struggles of the times, this assurance will give to the International Communist Women’s Day an unfailing strength and a flaming enthusiasm which will attract and recruit the masses. It will forge the unyielding will of millions to fight and conquer capitalism, and to pave the way for Communism. For this will, and only this will, can kick into the grave capitalism whose process of decay fills the air with poisonous, putrid bacilli, and the nauseating breath of pestilence. Should this active and self-sacrificing will be lacking, then capitalism can vegetate more extensively – although it has been sentenced by history. The price for this will be paid by the exploited and oppressed wage-slaves, by the taxed and ruled producing classes outside the ranks of the Junkers, the captains of industry, the rulers of the stock exchange and their illegitimate but nevertheless natural brothers, the speculators and profiteers And this price will be recorded in history with blood and tears, as a crushing defeat, the destruction and death of whole proletarian armies.

The Communist women were conscious of all this when they adopted their resolution in Moscow for the International Women’s Day. Today they are conscious, with a greater clarity and a stronger power of resolution, of how to prepare for this demonstration. The International Communist Women’s Day must also answer the question of destiny which stands, full of responsibility and sacrifice, but nevertheless hopeful and blessed, before the men and women of the producing classes of all countries – patient, humble satisfaction with dirty and blood-dripping capitalism, or a resolute inexorable fight for its destruction! The answer to this question must be clear and distinct, without any twistings and turnings with “buts” and “ifs”, and millions of women and men must answer it.

The liberation of the workers can only be the work of the working class itself, it can never accomplish this gigantic and terrible work of history, however, if it is torn in two halves by the sex distinction. As the men and women of the proletariat are united body and soul in their crushing life of misery, so must they also unite a burning hatred of capitalism with a more confident, more daring will to fight for the Revolution. The International Communist Women’s Day must not remain only a women’s demonstration in any country or town. It must everywhere be the expression of the will and the work of the entire Communist Party. The latter must support our Women’s Day with all its physical and moral strength. The power, the character, the tenor, the goal of our Women’s Day should make the necessity for it as apparent and self-evident as the existence of every party of the Third International.

Dare we forget that we are Communists? Communism binds! Our place is in the struggle with the capitalistic monster, in the work and fight for the far-off sunshine-filled edifice of Communism in which everybody will find a home of the greatest humanity, men as well as women, just as in the fight for complete humanity we must fight for the things concerning men as well as those concerning women. Before our thoughts and wills stands a great gathering of millions of all the exploited, the enslaved, the suffering and oppressed and the one great, sublime common cause which calls to the fight! Here the proletariat longing for a fuller life, there the bourgeoisie yearning for gold and power! Here Socialism. Communism developing people as the creators and enjoyers of culture, into perfect happy human-beings; there capitalism uses people as the material for profits, besmirches them, lowers their standard of living, cripples them and grinds them down. With this conviction, the International Women’s Day is to win the broad masses for the fight in the cause of Communism. Men and women without distinction! The memory of the glorious deed of the Petrograd working women on March 8th, shall wave over our Women’s Day like a blazing banner which points out the way and kindles our courage. Moreover, as a recruiting force for the Communist Party of every country, for Communism, for the Third International, the demonstration will continue during the week of March 5th–12th. For it is to carry the spark of thought by which the act of emancipation is kindled into the depths and to the remotest little corner inhabited by people whose humanity is ground by capitalism in its profit-mill.

With this aim in view, our demonstration will speak in a brazen voice of the sufferings and fate of countless women. It will also speak of untiring labors and bitter poverty, of consuming cares and miserable wretchedness, of injustice and unappeasable ardent longings, of the brutal obstinate power of men and the inflexible, daring and defiant revolutionary will of the exploited and the little. Does not capitalism stick to the heels of the working woman from the gray dawn of morning until late at night, in order to squeeze out of her flesh and blood – and from her often with doubled cruelty and unscrupulousness – the riches with which it wishes to pay for its ravages in the world war and for its future destructive existence.

The rising cost of living, intensified by profiteering and high taxes tear the piece of dry bread from her mouth. Her earnings or those of the husband are decreasing and no skilfulness, no ability protects her from unemployment. The working day is growing longer, the burden, the torture and the danger of work is increasing. The employers, insolent and challenging under the protection of the state, are destroying the poor beginnings of legal protection for the wage-earning proletarian woman, for the children, the half-fledged sons and daughters of the producing class. The exploiting capitalist wants to hold his own on the market, and demands bigger profits. Unfeelingly he tramples under foot all consideration of the fact that the woman who is continuously employed, the housewife of the factory worker, of the civil service worker, of the hand worker and the small farmer, is a wife, a mother and a person. And, under this sacred gold hunger of the individual capitalist there stands today the consciousness of the whole capitalist class that the existence of its exploiting and ruling power is at stake.

Therefore, money in lavish abundance to protect and support this power with bayonets and machine guns. On the other hand, if it is a question of making provisions for mother and child, or of social institutions and measures which would make easier the lot of the crushed housewife and mother whose duties are doubled and tripled; absolute poverty. On the one hand, in the name of democracy, there is privilege and a strengthening of power for the rich, even if they, as drones, hinder society. On the other hand, there is a withholding of political and social rights for the working women, who with hands and brains promote the welfare and the culture of the community. Bound also by the chains of sex slavery, the lot of the working woman, as a victim of class slavery, is doubly hard. And, if in spite of this she should dare to rise against this slavery, if her class brother rises against it, then the bourgeois community, with the aid of the White Terror, seeks to put to death her class justice and the Red Terror of her class army.

Such are the effects of dying capitalism, desperately fighting death, which dictate the slogans of our Women’s Day. They begin with a demand for immediate and decisive measures for the cheapening and security of the necessities of life, until the time of the control of the economy by freely elected councils of the workers without distinction of sex. Having begun with the demands for the full political and social rights for women and efficient social protection for them, it finishes with an appeal for unlimited amnesty for all revolutionary fighters, men and women. One or another proletarian life question is used as an opening point or, else very strongly emphasized in each country, according to the given existing circumstances. In all countries, however, the individual demands should be combined into a powerful, confident will to fight for the capture of the government through the proletariat, and for the establishment of its dictatorship on Soviet lines. In the lands of the vanquished and the victor, as well as in the so-called neutral countries, capitalism no longer punishes with the whips of its prime but with the scorpions of its decay. The sufferings of the producing-class of one nation become the pain of the others. This develops and strengthens the international revolutionary determination to fight, and the international revolutionary battle-cry, “Down with the Minotaur, the man-eater!” Our Communist Women’s Day must develop this. The international solidarity of the oppressed and the starved of all countries imperiously demands at present tangible expression – an abnegating, brotherly help for those starving and threatened with death in Soviet Russia. The imperialists of France and England demand as spoils of war a tremendous share of the wealth which the German capitalists extort from the proletariat. As compensation they want to let Stinnes and Rathenau have a share in the well-planned plundering and dismemberment of Soviet Russia. It is to become a colony for the inexhaustible exploitation of world capitalism under German management. Deadly hatred for the one proletarian state of the world, permeates those greedy for gold and power, and the international clan of exploiters who hunger for lives. Can this state live, can it develop its young forces, if the cracking and bursting building of world capitalism can only by cemented with the blood and sweat of millions of miserable beings, if it can only be supported by the bones of those who have been destroyed? Is not its mere existence a not-to-be silenced admonition to the enslaved to throw off the yoke from their wounded shoulders and their shattered souls?

The workers and peasants of Soviet Russia have performed immortal deeds in heroic fight and silent martyrdom. Alone, weakened by civil war, attacked by internal foes the country was unable in four short years to blot out the criminal inheritance of Czarism and capitalism and to make up for the lack of economic and cultural development, which has stood still for centuries. And it needed that which would accelerate and make easier the building of a new and fuller life, collaboration with other proletarian states in which the social revolution has unchained gigantic forces of production. Soviet Russia was forced to resume negotiations with capitalism, which desires to uproot its government. This action was not a bitter fruit of the “bad mistakes” of its ruling, revolutionary party, but much more the fault of the proletarians of other countries, above all Germany – who dared not think of and fight for freedom.

Capitalism which has been admitted into Soviet Russia must remain the well-paid servant of the proletariat and its republic, and is never to become the commanding master or the ruler. The power is still with the Soviets and it must remain with them. Proletarians of the whole world pay your tremendous debt to your Russian brothers and sisters! And you producing women of the entire world, do likewise! Is not Soviet Russia the only country which calls for and recognizes women’s work in every field, which socially protects and values motherhood, in that the wife is a citizen and her equal rights are recognized? Hands off Soviet Russia! Clear the road for Soviet Russia! On with the energetic development of Soviet Russia! Such a call to battle against the booty-seeking bourgeoisie of all countries must spread from our International Women’s Day over the whole world.

The international women correspondents of the Communist Parties of many European countries have in a general conference with the representatives of the women’s secretariat of the Third International, consulted them about the carrying through of the Women’s Day. In their decisions they were in accord with the orders of the Third International. It can not be, it should not be. The Communist Party of every country can and must devote its full strength to the success of our demonstration.

The International Communist Women’s Day begins on March 5th, Rosa Luxemburg’s birthday. The life work and the good example of the intrepid, genial immortal among whose body was mutilated by murderous hands, but whose spirit lives immortal among us, will be a column of fire to light and show us the way. March 8th is the day on which the women tolled the tocsin of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The manifestation of will, the decisive rally to the fight by the international proletariat must be the answer to Genoa, the demonstration of the international counter-revolution. And women will fight with honor and glory in the front ranks of the united revolutionary front. Their International Day must build a strong proletarian armed force against the counter-revolutionary intriguers of capitalist power and their political flunkeys. Women helped to prepare the way for Christianity and to bring it to power. Women brought the King and the National Assembly from Versailles back to Paris on October 5th and 6th, 1794, the funeral procession of the absolute monarchy and the feudal state, and the triumphal procession of the Revolution. Women on March 1st, 1871, prevented the robbery of the artillery of the Parisian by Thiers’ White Guards, and gave the signal for the Commune. Our hard times, in which the freedom and even the barest existence for the proletarians of all countries are at stake, our great period in which world reaction and world revolution are preparing for armed conflict, should find no insignificant female sex, no illusions and no fearful and faint hearts! Let us prepare for the fight! Let us go into the fight earnestly and fearlessly!


Last updated on 14 October 2021