From an International Women’s Day founded by socialists to one sponsored by corporations

Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day.

Reclaiming the radical roots of the holiday has at this point become a cliché, albeit a necessary one — just as reclaiming Martin Luther King, Jr.’s uncompromising anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, and reminding Americans of how the US government did everything it could to crush him and the civil rights movement, has become a necessary cliché on MLK Day every 16 January.

Media reports rarely acknowledge it, but International Women’s Day was founded by socialist feminists in the early 20th century. The University of Chicago briefly details the history of the day in an instructive timeline.

At the International Women’s Conference, before the 1910 general meeting of the Second International, socialists called for a day to honor women workers everywhere. They created International Working Women’s Day — the original name of the holiday.

The day has a very long and very radical history. In fact, on International Working Women’s Day in Russia in 1917, women poured into the streets and helped organize a massive general strike, which morphed into the February Revolution.

Throughout the world, and particularly in the Global South, International Women’s Day has been an important symbol in communist, socialist, anti-imperialist, and other liberation movements.

Palestinian leftist groups have left behind posters honoring يوم المرأة العالمي for decades.

This legacy is still very much alive in occupied Palestine. Khalida Jarrar, a legislator from the marxist-leninst Palestinian party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, released a letter from an Israeli jail commemorating International Women’s Day.

In much of the world today, however, more than a century later, this radical legacy has not only been forgotten (or, rather, purposefully concealed, whitewashed, erased); the holiday has even been co-opted by large corporations like Microsoft in order to celebrate the increasing diversity of the ruling class — a ruling class that may be increasingly diverse, but is also increasingly small, increasingly powerful, and increasingly brutal.

Corporate tech giants are joined by banks like Goldman Sachs, which investigative journalist Matt Taibbi famously referred to as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

And even fossil fuel corporations that make exorbitant profits from destroying the planet and robbing and ravaging the Global South!

Oh, how far we’ve come.