Farmers’ protest once again highlighted the power of women in mass mobilizations

The decision of the leadership of Kisan Morcha to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 is of paramount importance and should be welcomed. Celebrations are due to take place at protest sites in Delhi, and leaders have called for large-scale marches by women farmers (and other women) from states surrounding Delhi to protest sites on or before March 8. . The annual Delhi Border Women’s Gathering is the largest gathering of its kind on International Women’s Day in the world.

Due to the global interest in such a gathering among women, as well as progressive individuals and organizations in favor of gender equality, the day’s program will be watched closely around the world. The format of the celebrations planned by the Kisan organizations also deserves special appreciation. The stage at the various protest sites will be managed by women and the speakers for the day will also be mainly, if not exclusively, women.

The idea of ​​the celebration and the manner of its announcement suggest that the leadership of Kisan Morcha has realized the need to recognize the contribution of women in this momentous struggle. No movement in Indian history – including the independence movement from British colonial rule – has had this level of female participation.

The highly visible participation of women in this movement has also caught the attention of prominent women activists around the world, such as singer Rihanna, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, legal activist Meena Harris (the niece of the US Vice President Kamala Harris), Hollywood film actress Susan Sarandon, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet and British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. They all supported farmers’ protests against the three farm laws introduced by the BJP government.

The aspect of women’s participation in this movement that has attracted particular attention nationally and globally is that the women who participate in it participate in issues that concern the whole of society rather than women in particular.

The emergence of a new generation of women activists

It is in this context that the contribution of two Indian activists – Nodeep Kaur and Disha Ravi – takes on particular importance. Nodeep Kaur organized male and female industrial workers to demand better working conditions and took a leadership role in this organization. She has shown a high level of political awareness in recognizing that there is a commonality between the struggles of farmers and workers and in leading a rally of thousands of industrial workers – men and women – in support of the peasant movement.

Activists Nodeep Kaur (L) and Disha Ravi (R).

The BJP governments in Haryana and the Center have been appalled by this development. There could be no greater challenge and threat to the BJP than an alliance between Indian workers and peasants. It was this fear that led the government to arrest Nodeep Kaur. Meena Harris’s statement about Kaur galvanized international and domestic support, and the government was forced to release her relatively quickly.

If we compare the government’s behavior in this case with its very harsh treatment of other female activists in the past (such as lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj), it becomes quite clear that it is the power of the mass movement behind the protest. of farmers who forced a difference in approach from government behavior.

The case of Disha Ravi also demonstrates the emergence of a new generation of women activists who are aware of women’s issues but who also link them to broader societal issues. She is an environmental activist and was inspired by the activism of Greta Thunberg. The global environmental movement has seen the participation of women of all ages on a level and scale that no other movement has seen before.

In memory of Rosa Luxemburg

Before the global environmental movement, women were the most frequent participants in anti-war movements; in the UK, protests against nuclear weapons were almost entirely led by women. There remains a subject for further research and reflection as to why movements for peace and ecological sustainability attract women more than other movements.

A popular explanation is that as women give birth and take care of food and food-related housework, they develop a greater sensitivity to nature and nature-related survival services.

Rosa Luxemburg addresses a crowd in Stuttgart.

Of particular significance is this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day, marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Luxemburg, the greatest revolutionary woman of the 20th century and one of the greatest economists. She was born on March 5, 1871 in Poland but became the leader of the German Social Democratic Party, at the time the largest Marxist party in the world.

His book Capital accumulation (1913) extends Marx’s economic theory to the period of imperialism. She argued that capital accumulation requires the constant expansion of markets for its commodities and that it was this search for markets that created the inter-imperialist rivalries leading up to World War I.

She popularized the slogan “Socialism or barbarism” formulated earlier by Karl Kautsky, which meant that if socialism fails to replace capitalism, it will lead to world wars and threaten civilization. Along with Lenin and Trotsky, she belonged to the group of revolutionaries who had argued that in wartime revolutionaries should attempt to overthrow the government of their country instead of providing patriotic support.

Socialist historian and journalist Franz Mehring called her “the best brain after Marx”. She clashed with Lenin on theoretical and political questions, especially regarding certain undemocratic dimensions of Bolshevik theory and practice, and always commanded her respect in so far as he called her the “eagle” of the movement. Communist.

Rosa Luxemburg was assassinated by proto-fascist thugs in January 1919. The 150th anniversary of her birth will be celebrated this year by women and socialist groups from all over the world. A socialist feminist magazine Lux, which debuted in 2020 and bears the name Rosa Luxemburg, described her as “one of the most creative minds to remake the socialist tradition”.

I hope Kisan Morcha will also remember her during their celebration of International Women’s Day. In this period of increasing threat of authoritarianism for democracy, let us end by recalling the words of Luxembourg which must remain the motto of the movement of peasants and women:

“Freedom only for government supporters, only for party members – however many they may be – is not freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the one who thinks differently. ”

Pritam Singh is Professor Emeritus at Oxford Brookes Business School, Oxford UK.