This year’s call for a global women’s strike to mark the 8th of March women’s day was expressed in protests throughout the world. But it found no greater resonance than in spain.
The call to strike was already in itself a radical gesture, to move beyond the ever so often tepid parades of slogans for equality of rights. However useful such moments may be, their political limitations are profound.
In spain, the strike call was made in the name of feminism: March 8th was to be a Huelga Feminista, under the rallying cry of “If we stop, the world stops!”. And if spain did not come altogether to a stand still, tens of thousands protested during the day and roving pickets closed roads, public transportation services, shops. Public and private sector workers (teachers, journalists, care workers, cleaners (las kellys) and so on) struck. Originally called by radical labour unions (the CNT, CGT, Solidaridade Obrera, among others), along with hundreds of feminist collectives and other political groups, its extraordinary resonance finally forced spain’s larger labour unions (the CCOO and the UGT) to join, with their membership contributing to a two hour afternoon labour stoppage involving some 6 million people. (El Pais 08/03/2018). Night brought the final act, with massive demonstrations in spain’s cities (over half a million people in Madrid and Barcelona, respectively). And for those who could not take to the streets, gestures of solidarity were multiplied (most notably, an apron hung in a window or on a balcony, by women who could cease to provide for needs).
As a “feminist strike”, the goal was never simply to close down “production”, but to close down “everything”: production and consumption, service provision, transportation, etc.; to disrupt the multitude of diverse activities that are reserved to women (and through which they are defined and oppressed as “women”) that assure the re-production of the social relations of capitalism; to end the violence directed against women, the violence that secures the oppression and exploitation of patriarchy (in spain, while 1,000 women have been murdered in the last 14 years, more often than not at the hands of men they know, they carry twice the burden of unpaid domestic work, and when paid, earn on average 30% less than men). (Kaosenlared.net 08/03/2018)) What was, and remains, thus ultimately at stake are the overlapping (practical, institutional and corporal-conceptual) binaries and borders that order the male-centred, hierarchical sex-gendered world that capitalism rests upon and creates.
The goal made the strike unpredictably rebellious. For months, the work of dissemination and debate fell back on older, horizontal networks of solidarity and militancy, while new fora and relations were generated and for a day, the squares and streets of cities filled with life rather than commodities.
The temptation and/or effort to domesticate such a strike remains powerful.
And women’s day should never be just a “day”.
And the streets should not be allowed to return to “normal”.
A women’s or feminist strike must go beyond the calendar of conservative celebration. The strike must become permanent, overflowing, wild, a threshold of refusal and creation.
Video from the Huelga feminista … from El Pais …
… from El Salto …
… from Diario Público …
… from El Diario …
… and throughout spain