Founding declaration of ROSA: International Socialist Feminists
Updated: May 31
All over the world women are fighting back against violence, discrimination and oppression. There is a growing awareness that the capitalist system feeds and creates oppression. We must rise from below and support each other’s struggles in all countries. In the footsteps of the socialist pioneer Rosa Luxemburg and the resistance hero Rosa Parks we, who organise in the ROSA network, are socialist feminists and we want to contribute to a grassroots mobilization against the capitalist system and for an international struggle against women’s oppression.
Women workers are heavily exploited under capitalism. Women earn 24 percent less than men globally. They do more than 75 percent of the unpaid household work. Women make up the majority of today's poor. One in three women worldwide have experienced some kind of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. But it doesn't have to be like this!
In Latin America and Russia, for example, the huge epidemic of femicide has been made visible and fought by the growing feminist movement. Control over women’s bodies stretches from governments imposing dress codes, to limits on the right to make our own decisions about pregnancy or parenthood, to the exercise of power through rape and sexual harassment. A stifling, out-of-touch view of sexuality stigmatises everything that is outside of or different to the heterosexual norm. We all suffer from this in one way or another. Gender roles in today's society teach men from the start to take more space and women to be more passive.
We join forces and become strong in our common voice, we rage, we demand control over our own bodies. Women’s struggles have won some important victories in the last couple of years, like the collective struggles such as #MeToo, Ni Una Menos and others that have raised consiousness against sexual harassment - leading to more stringent laws and trade union action programmes in some countries. Strikes by workers in McDonalds and Google on this issue have been vital in showing how we can win. Elsewhere there has been progress like the introduction of the right to abortion or the abolition of marry-your-rapist laws.
But as soon as the movement cools down oppression will rise again. Examples include courts letting the perpetrators off and passing judgement on the victims of rape. A marry-your-rapist bill being reintroduced in the Turkish Parliament after having been pushed back by the movement in 2016. Militaries still using rape as a weapon of war.
Capitalists make enormous profits through exploitative wage-labour and special oppression of women workers with worse conditions and lower wages. Governments slash the welfare state until it is on its knees while the rich and the war-machines are swimming in money. People in power are consciously promoting sexism, racism and LGBTQ+-oppression to set different groups against each other. Even in countries that have been ‘progressive’ forerunners in the world there are setbacks both concerning growing class differences and gender equality. It's inherent in the system.
Capitalism has to be abolished. It is a system that uses and reproduces patriarchal gender oppression and heteronormality everyday by giving especially women and LGBTQ+-people lower wages and worse working conditions. Capitalism as a system relies on massive inequality and destruction, with ongoing economic crises. At this moment vast sums of money are spent on trade-wars to decide which global power shall control the world market, which imperialist power shall have more space to make poor people even poorer and disrupt nature and the rights of indigenous peoples. Wars are started as a result of this struggle for power with death, suffering and streams of refugees in its wake. And all the while capitalism brings us closer to a complete climate catastrophe by continuing it´s ruthless plundering of the natural world and pouring out ever more greenhouse gases.
Capitalist society wouldn't be able to function without the huge number of hours spent on unpaid labour of women in the household. Many of these jobs could be performed more efficiently and more environmentally friendly by organising it collectively in public services, taking the burden of mainly women's shoulders.
In 2019 there were uprisings against austerity, systematic inequality and corruption in a number of countries and often women were both organising and dominant in these. Some reports claim that women constituted two-thirds of the protesters in Sudan and upwards of 40% of the occupiers of squares in Iraq. Feminism has been a spearpoint of and has deepened the uprising in Lebanon. The Chilean feminist´s music perfomance against rape and the state is spreading like wild-fire over the world.
In a number of examples, state forces are raping or blinding people with rubber bullets to stop them rising up. This is because the state works to protect not only neoliberalism but the entire capitalist economy and class society. Some states are permeated by corruption, national oppression and religious sectarianism to rule by division whilst other so-called democratic nations cut back on and privatise health-care and education so women and worker’s lives are stressed to bits.
Figures such as US President Donald Trump and Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro have helped to provoke mass outrage and movements against their sexist attitudes. However, their resorting to attacks on women in order to whip up support from a small conservative section of the population is a sign of their weakness, not their strength. Mass movements can bring down these regimes. It is also not the case that there is widespread support for their bigotry. Generally the majority of people across the globe are angry with the inability of capitalism to provide a decent standard of living and support left-wing and even socialist policies. There has been no stable political force that has been able to give expression to this anger, which has allowed right wing populist or reactionary organisations to fill the vacuum in some cases. To provide answers and a way forward is one of the tasks of the global women’s movement generally and socialist feminists specifically.
ROSA fights for democratic socialism, which includes:
-A genuine living wage, proper contracts and guaranteed hours - for the right to full-time hours. Abolish wage discrimination and the gender gap by abolishing low pay- take it out of companies’ profits, not the pay of men!
-A significant reduction in full-time work-hours with no loss of pay. This would increase public health and equality and provide incomes for all. Employment must be secure.
-Welfare for all. Reliable social insurance, parental leave and pensions.
- Society should be responsible for good health care, free education and childcare, a dignified life in old age, easy and affordable access to basic necessities such as water, sanitary provisions, heating and electricity. The family should not be a source of inequality. We need a change which starts now but will need a transformation of the whole society to be fulfilled.
-Fight for good quality, affordable and publicly owned housing as well as free, safe and green public transport - we cannot rely on the private sector!
-Stop the objectification of women, fight for bodily autonomy and the right of women to choose. Against the trafficking of women and sexual exploitation in all its forms.
-The fight against sexual harassment, gender violence and objectification must reach into all parts of society- from sex education in schools, to special training for social workers, health-care staff, police, courts and trade unions.
- Down with all patriarchal laws and gender based discrimination - for the abolition of religious courts and the separation of religion and state. The working class, including women’s, trade union and community organisations should have democratic control over judges and the police to ensure they genuinely deliver justice.
-Financial corporations like multinationals and banks must be owned collectively by society and be democratically controlled from below by the working class and poor.
- Society should be run democratically at all levels from below with elected representatives with no privileges and with total transparency.
-A complete transformation of society. Take the resources of key sectors of the economy including the banks and big companies into public ownership to create an economy free from fossil-fuel emissions and geared to eradicate poverty and all oppression. The economy must be planned and controlled by the workers.
-For a socialist world geared to peace and welfare and against hierarchy and oppression. Let people live in harmony with each other, with eco-systems, animal life and nature as a whole. In a socialist world, we will be able to develop as human beings, freed from constraining gender roles and sexual oppression.
12. It is clear that liberal feminist ideas of getting more women in to parliaments and boardrooms are a complete dead-end. Female leaders such as Theresa May in Britain, Angela Merkel in Germany and Christine Legarde as head of the IMF all supported brutal austerity which hurt the lives, opportunities and rights of working class women. We need to change the system to achieve genuine equality, rather than just adding more women to positions in the exploiting class. The struggle to win genuine system change needs working class people of all genders to unite and fight for improvements in all of our lives.
13. ROSA works for combative women, LGBTQ+ and workers’ movements that puts socialist feminism and anti-racism at the forefront. Every form of sexism or prejudice splits the working-class, weakens the struggle and has to be fought resolutely. Socialist feminism includes workers of all genders - struggles and discussions will raise consciousness.
14. When on strike we must make sure to hit the system where it has the most impact - stopping production and thereby profits. Big corporations have the real power over society and that is what we must challenge.
15. The working-class has a unique and powerful position because we are the centre of production. Withdrawing labour through strikes and other forms of struggle can exert this power, bringing whole countries to a standstill.. By working class we mean all those who have to look for paid labour (in the formal economy as well as the informal sector) as their only source of income, including their families.
16. Strikes stopping the economy isn't enough. Where mass movements and strikes are taking place, we must proceed to build committees where the people are involved in deciding how to run not just the movement itself, but society as a whole, building towards a challenge to the political power of the state.
17. International Women's Day 8th of March’s tradition includes the Russian Revolution, which started on this day when female textile workers went on strike. This further led to a revolution where the working-class took power in October 1917.
18. Today internationalism and women's struggles are spreading across the world. International socialist feminism will grow and unite with workers’, anti-racist, and climate struggles. With the working class at the forefront, this will become an unstoppable force.
-Protests around the world on International Women's Day 8th of March. Mass-struggle and strikes in schools and workplaces wherever possible.
-For democratic combative trade unions that fight for women's rights every day the year round.
-Build socialist feminist committees in schools, workplaces and communities wherever issues and struggles arise.
-Build defensive struggles against right-wing extremists, reactionary thugs, religious fundamentalism and the violence of the state.
-Work to form new political parties as a tool to unite the working class and all oppressed peoples, fighting for a socialist program and aiming for the overthrow of capitalism.