Converging for a stronger gender justice struggle

January 18, 2019

January 19 is the date for the now-annual Women’s Marches across the country. In the face of several challenges, including the cancellation of some demonstrations, activists are nevertheless planning to march — and in many places, this day will be a reflection of the anger and frustration that people feel about the Trump administration all year long.

In several cities, socialists, feminists, labor activists and others are marching as contingents, some of them under the name “Feminism for the 99 Percent.” Here, Lillian Cicerchia describes what’s planned for New York City, where an Anti-Capitalist Feminist contingent on January 19 will hold a convergence the next day — and what could come out of the two days of activities.

NEW YORK City radicals are celebrating the third annual Women’s March to protest the reactionary Trump administration by hosting the Anti-Capitalist Feminist Convergence on January 20.

The event will bring together socialist organizations like the International Socialist Organization, Democratic Socialists of America, International Women's Strike and Socialist Alternative, as well as feminist groups like National Women’s Liberation and New York City for Abortion Rights.

This will be an opportunity for gender justice activists to come together to talk politics and discuss the future of the feminist movement in New York and internationally. Whether someone has been an activist for years or is new to the feminist movement and wants to know more about what capitalism has to do with gender-based oppression, all are welcome to attend and plug in.

Marching against sexism and bigotry in Los Angeles
Marching against sexism and bigotry in Los Angeles (Molly Adams | flickr)

The convergence will give organizations the opportunity to present their work, campaigns and sense of where the left of the feminist movement should go from today. It will also be a place where new activists can come to check out that work and decide where they want to get involved by checking out the tables of the hosting groups.

The program will also feature solidarity greetings from socialists from the feminist movements in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ireland and Palestine.

This intervention is especially important this year. In the past, the Women’s Marches were the leading edge of deep-seated anger against the Trump administration and all that it stands for.

The march in 2017 was the first massive outpouring of that anger, coming the day after Trump’s inauguration. In 2018, the march surprised many in retaining much of the massive size and energy of the previous year.

But in 2019, the Women’s March leadership has split in New York City, which raises questions about the direction that the movement should go. Important questions include:

How should socialists relate to big, liberal organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which are seen as leaders in protecting abortion access, but don’t necessarily support universal health insurance programs like the Medicare for All bill?

How can we bring the emerging radicalization around gender justice closer to women in workplaces to strengthen the labor movement?

How should the socialist movement develop a clear anti-racist perspective that supports the leadership of women of color?

Where should socialist feminists position themselves to widen the base of support for boycott, divest and sanctions against Israel’s apartheid state?

A PERSISTENT issue in both the Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement has been how to politically cohere groups of people together who can fight and win.

One important part of asking where we go from here is asking what kind of organizations we need, what our priorities should be, and how best to attract new layers of radicalizing people into the work. There’s a lot to discuss in terms of building a democratic movement that welcomes this new layer and creates spaces to have these discussions over a longer period of time.

New York has set an important precedent in moving in this more political and militant direction. Back in September, the same activist groups who are hosting the convergence came together to form to Feminist Rapid Response Network (FRRN).

FRRN organized a 3,000-person strong protest against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In fact, FRRN organized three protests over the course of a single weekend. The largest and most successful of these marched to the Yale Club in New York City where survivors of sexual violence and their allies spoke out against Trump, sexism and capitalism.

Slogans included “We believe Anita Hill, always have and always will” — and, more to the point, “We believe survivors.” The leading banner read “Feminism against Capitalism.”

Later, the group organized a solidarity rally to affirm the civil rights and human dignity of trans people following the leaked memo from the Trump administration that denied their existence by defining gender by a person’s anatomy.

There are a lot of opportunities for socialists to take advantage of in the near future. In the absence of liberal organizations that are willing to wage a fight around key issues like access to abortion and workplace protections against sexual violence, the door is open for socialists to lead.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and it is happening at nearly the same time as the right-wing “40 Days for Life” marches and demonstrations across the country. 40 Days for Life is the biannual series of protests that anti-abortion activists host at abortion clinics across the country.

What if socialists worked together to build mass demonstrations for March 8 that lead to a national day of action in defense of our clinics? These actions could link feminists in the U.S. with feminist movements around the world that are also fighting for rights to bodily autonomy and a future free of gender-based violence.

Building such a movement in the U.S. would require the left to develop its capacities for political debate within and between organizations. We need infrastructure to push our movement forward through democratic means, and we need it to be open for anyone who wants to join us in a fight for gender justice.

The socialist left is growing, but it needs to learn to lead people who are not yet socialists, who are curious about socialism or who are angry about one issue right now but might learn through their activist work that may want to be socialists in the future.

In sum, our movement has to grow. If the next steps that we take coming out of the convergence are toward creating spaces to discuss the future of the movement and its priorities, then we will have taken a step forward toward the future of feminism in New York and beyond.

Join us at one of these local contingents

Washington, D.C.: Feminism for the 99 Percent contingent

New York City: Anti-Capitalist Feminist Contingent on Saturday and Anti-Capitalist Feminist Convergence on Sunday
The Sunday event will focus on our activism and coalition work around gender justice in New York City and try to plug new people into activism.

San Francisco: Feminism for the 99 Percent contingent
We are a contingent of socialists, feminists and labor activists who demand that gender justice be connected to the issues of labor, immigrant rights, mass incarceration, health care for all, decriminalized sex work, fully funded public education, free childcare and free abortion on demand.

Seattle: Revolutionary Feminists Contingent

Boston: Feminism for the 99 Percent contingent

Further Reading

From the archives