Women and the Rise of Fascism
The International Women’s Alliance recognizes the 111th year of International Working Women’s Day this March 8, 2022. Women all around the world labor in all industries - with significant representation in the service industry, manufacturing, agriculture and health care. We recognize that the workers, including women, have influenced the course of history through collective action and determination. It is this courageous spirit which we uphold today and every day.
Women have been subjected to oppression and exploitation throughout the course of history. Since the post WWII era, women continue to face the additional threat of fascism. Fascism threatens our democratic rights; our safety; our ability to collectively demand that which is owed to us through our labor; and even more so, to rise up against our oppressors. Fascism is a symptom of the decay of capitalism - the final clawing of the ruling class to maintain power over masses of people clamoring for improved working conditions; wages; and basic human rights. Fascism as a system and as a tendency is the complete disregard and violation of democracy and peoples rights. Fascist totalitarian governments including right wing political parties and movements have developed and strengthened since the Great Depression in the 1930s paving the way for Nazism and other fascist parties leading to the Second World War. Their defeat did not spell the end of fascism, but remained a latent force and a tool of monopoly capital.
While fascist leaders espouse popular ideas which seemingly represent the needs of the people, in the end, fascism serves to protect the assets, profits and interests of those who already hold power. Mussolini, for example, promised women the right to vote. This helped him gain popular support among working women and suffragists. However, over the course of his rule he slowly dialed back his promises - ultimately giving only educated and wealthy married women the right to vote in local municipal elections.
Fascism also promotes political puppets that appeal to broad society when, in actuality, they serve to maximize exploitation and profits for the ruling class. Today, the International Women’s Alliance recognizes that all too many women who hold positions of leadership as politicians and corporate executives, use their gender to uphold fascist agendas. Some even lead fascist parties like in France, Norway and Denmark. Far from advancing the cause of women, they sustain and further perpetuate the system of exploitation and oppression. We denounce these women, and recognize the true heroes of feminism - the working women and organized women who continue to fight for a better world.
Our feminist heroes often walk with targets on their backs, because of their rejection of these fascist schemes, and the threat they pose to the interests of the oppressors. Instead, we must direct our attention and expose those women who deceivingly espouse gender equality and women’s empowerment and uphold fascism.
First and most timely, Natalie Jaresko, an American born Ukrainian who, as the executive director of Puerto Rico's financial oversight board, is the principal negotiator responsible for “solving” Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. Her solution to this problem has been to privatize Puerto Rico and strip public benefits from the people. This has included opening private charter schools throughout Puerto Rico causing 350 public schools to close, stripping people’s retirement funds and imposing austerity measures that have made daily life economically and socially brutal.
Over the past 33 years, Jaresko has held executive level roles in the U.S. State Dept, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Western Newly Independent States Enterprise Fund (WNISEF), Horizon Capital Associates, and the Ukraine Minister of Finance. In each of these positions, she has been a key player in stealing money from the people and lining the pockets of politicians and corporations. For example, before being appointed to lead the Oversight Board, Ms. Jaresko ran WNISEF, a $150 million regional taxpayer-funded investment fund. During her tenure at WNISEF in 2013, Ms. Jaresko collected $1.77 million in bonuses through a loophole allowing her to pull directly from the fund, despite being limited to a compensation of $150,000. She makes over 31 times more than the average family in Puerto Rico in her current role.
As the crisis worsens and fascism increases world-wide in response to rising people's movements, the US is relying on its defense industry to pull it out of the financial crisis caused by the pandemic. Currently, the US-Nato aggression with Russia over Ukraine continues to heighten, impacting hundreds of thousands of women and children. Meanwhile war profiteering for major US-based war manufacturers keeps the US economy afloat during the crisis. In the rise of fascism and militarism world-wide, women are largely at the helm, serving as CEOs of the United State’s largest weapons and defense corporations.
Marillyn Hewson is the former CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin has been condemned for supplying weapons to Israeli and Saudi forces to assist in occupying Palestine and bombing Yemen. Leanne Caret is the CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security and prides herself and Boeing Defense for capitalizing on current and projected wars and increasing Boeing’s and, by extension, the US’s global imperialist influence. Kathy Warden, chairman, president and CEO of Northrop Grumman, is playing a key role in expanding US imperialism and advocating for investing in tracking and deterring adversaries’, or non-NATO countries’ capabilities in space. Finally, Phebe Novakovic is CEO of General Dynamics. She says, “U.S. underwater supremacy is critical to our national security ... The more submarines that we can put in the water, the better off we are to protect our shores as well as to protect our assets overseas.”
Fascism, however, does not just manifest in the private sector. Government entities worldwide are bolstering and supporting the development of fascist corporations like weapons industries and are “solving” complex financial crises with neoliberal schemes to privatize and commodify even the air we breathe. We see these partnerships playing out all over the world.
For example, in the Philippines, Sara Duterte, daughter of fascist dictator Rodrigo Duterte, is currently in the running for Vice President of the Philippines on the same ticket as Bongbong Marcos, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This ticket is solidifying political dynasties within the Philippine government and giving each family a second chance at dictatorship. As two of her main priorities in office, Sara has committed to instituting mandatory military service for all Filipinos over the age of 18 and enhancing the war on drugs, which demonstrates her intention to pick up where her father left off. If Sara Duterte assumes the seat for Vice President, she would follow in the footsteps of her female predecessors and former Presidents Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, both of whom hold grave records in committing human rights violations against the Filipino people, largely supported by US Imperialism.
These women represent the dangers of bourgeois and liberal feminism. The system props them up as pillars of society, women who are “breaking through glass-ceilings”, and “conquering adversity.” In reality, the work they built their lives on is devastating the lives and homelands of millions of women world-wide. As these women gain power, they are doing so at the expense of the 247 million women in poverty internationally, the 700,000 women in detention, over 39 million women refugees, 490,000 women who are victims of human trafficking, and 1.2 billion women who are victims of gender-based violence. The successes of women heads of state and CEOs are portrayed in the media as examples of progress, a beacon of hope for a better world for women. But we know that the root of women’s oppression is class exploitation due to monopoly capitalism. Under imperialism, women will never be free.
While the women above are praised by the ruling class as aspirational examples of women’s potential, the true heroes of feminism have targets painted on their backs due to their commitment to seeing women’s conditions improved, speaking out against the unjust practices of the ruling class, and imagining a better world for all people. Here are just some of the women from IWA organizations and friends that we want to honor today.
In the Philippines and around the world; the reign of fascist terror of Rodrigo Duterte has threatened the members of IWA member organization Gabriela, the largest alliance of progressive women in the country. Through the passing of the Anti-Terror Law in 2020, Gabriela members have faced red-tagging, illegal arrest on trumped up charges, and profiling by the state. This has gone as far as members of Gabriela USA’s national leadership being labeled communists by Lorraine Badoy, Undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Philippines. Despite this assault Gabriela chapters have courageously and boldly continued the important work to advance the national democratic movement in the Philippines and amongst Filipinos abroad, and to oppose the tyranny of Rodrigo Duterte.
In December 2021, environmental activist Javiera Rojas was found buried under a pile of clothes with her hands and feet bound. Rojas was a longtime environmental defender with the organizations Movement for Water and Territories (MAT) in Chile. She had participated in a successful campaign to cancel construction of the Tranca dam in 2016 in favor of maintaining local wildlife and providing community access to water. Leading up to her murder, she was involved in protests against the Prime Thermoelectric project. Rojas joins thousands of women around the world who have been victims of femicide for defending their resource-rich homes and communities against extractive activities. From Indigenous women in Canada and the U.S who oppose pipeline projects, to women in the Philippines defending their ancestral domains from mining and oil drilling - Rojas and the environmental defenders of Chile are part of a global movement to protect the land from the destructive actions of capitalism that seek to profit and displace.
The global working class has been feeling the impacts of the crisis of capitalism, and more and more strikes are being waged with women leading the charge. One of Germany's largest trade unions called on employees at six Amazon warehouses in the country to strike for better working conditions, coinciding with Equal Pay Day and International Working Women’s Day. The Verdi Trade Union, one of Germany’s largest trade unions, has been demanding for Amazon to formally recognize collective labor agreements in the retail and mail order sectors, a demand that has spanned several years. One of the union’s strike leaders, Mechthild Middeke, has been leading the charge in Bad Hersfeld, vocalizing the impacts of pressures many Amazon employees feel to perform despite personal circumstances outside of work. Most of the workers who are the most impacted are women, and in particular single mothers. This strike follows a rising trend of many other striking Amazon workers confronting the behemoth US-based company. In Bessemer, Alabama in the US, thousands of Amazon workers, majority of whom are black women, fought for union representation, and were supported by hundreds of activists and labor organizations across the US.
While fascism props up only a few women as aspirational examples of success and power - IWA recognizes the contribution of the millions of working women everywhere and their struggle for rights, national liberation, and peace from war and militarization. Women around the world are organizing together in various ways to oppose the rise of fascism in all its forms. The International Women’s Alliance raises to the highest honor the women who oppose fascism through active participation in waging campaigns and activities that expose the rottenness of fascism and actively confront their oppressors. While the world stands on the brink of war, we know that it is women together with all oppressed people of the world whose resolve to see a better world - free from fascism and capitalist exploitation - who will truly be the victors of history and the future.