Women's International Democratic Federation's (WIDF) European organizations declared that they will not let governments increase women’s exploitation and criminalize workers’ struggles in a bid to silence them.
The full statement is as follows:
The WIDF Office expresses its solidarity with the women of Europe and all WIDF organizations in the region and the world, whose peoples are facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To all who have been ill, we send our thoughts and warm wishes for your recovery.
Each day, across the world, thousands of people are losing their lives, and thousands more are put at risk of innumerable effects on their health, because the policies of the governments, including those of even the most powerful states, constantly undercut our health protection needs to maintain markets and big business profits.
The perils of the pandemic tragically illustrate the profound inadequacies of health systems in all capitalist countries. These were well known before the appearance of COVID-19; they have not emerged out of nowhere. They are the result of anti-popular policies implemented by all the governments, either liberal or social-democratic. What people are experiencing is the result of the commercialization and privatization of health and care provision in the interests of ever greater profits for the huge corporations.
This policy undermines the great scientific and technological potential that exists today, which is well able to meet in full people’s every need – both for prevention of illness and the curing of those who become sick.
We support the struggle of doctors, nurses and all hospital workers who are working hard despite lack of “tools” and at great risk to their health and their lives, together with many others who have kept essential services running during these difficult times.
The WIDF European Regional Office offers a special salutation to women everywhere who work tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable people and save lives, with scarce or no resources, thus putting their personal safety at risk.
Throughout the quarantine period, the WIDF European organizations continued their struggle, voicing their demands for:
These issues are not new. We highlighted many of them at the joint meeting of our organizations in Europe in Brussels back in 2015. It is a struggle we have fought in many places over a long period. We welcome the example of countries such as CUBA, which show their solidarity with affected countries in every possible way and denounce the EU, whose policy condemns our peoples to live without the free public healthcare on which they rely.
We denounce NATO, which, in the depths of this crisis, is requiring all member states to meet its 2% of GDP target on armaments and ‘defense’ spending. In contrast, we demand that European governments redeploy their war budgets to provide for civilian needs and social services.
The COVID-19 epidemic was the spark that ignited the global economic crisis, now well underway, intensifying imperialist antagonisms, while the people groan under the weight of the burden they are forced to bear. As they mourn their dead, their governments are busy planning new imperialist wars.
The strategy to control resources and markets has, by contrast, not only escaped quarantine in recent months, but is rather undergoing reshaping to benefit from the contradictions created by the pandemic. Each imperialist power, first of all US, NATO and the EU, is taking steps to promote more aggressively the interests of its monopolies.
Dangerous and worrying developments are taking place in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. These are caused by social, economic, and political forces which seek to draw the peoples of the region into bloody adventures not of their choosing. The fight to control the energy resources, oil and gas routes, and commodities of the region are in the interest of the region’s bourgeoisie and not its people. The vicious circle of competition threatens peace and stability, while the popular strata of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey gain nothing whatsoever.
The WIDF European Region therefore:
The duration of lockdown measures in Europe and throughout the world has increased the incidence of domestic violence against women, about which governments, imperialist organizations, and large multinational corporations have constantly shed crocodile tears. But the hypocrites say nothing about their wars and interventions in every corner of the globe, as they wantonly massacre people and create thousands of refugees, the majority women and children.
To tackle violence against women, targeted policies are needed and increased penalties for cases of violation of women’s fundamental rights. Women must be accorded adequate state funding for the provision of social services and infrastructure - operating full-time with specialist, permanent staff and without the involvement of the private sector - to support those who are abused. This should include, but not be limited to, crisis centers, refuges, dedicated telephone lines, and legal assistance.
But above all, the struggle to eliminate the social and economic roots of multi-faceted violence against women, in a society based on exploitation and oppression, must be intensified.
The economic crisis in Europe and across the world is, once again, witnessing the demand that the people must pay. That is why millions of workers are losing their jobs, suffering wage reductions, and being forced into part-time working and temporary, on-call contracts. This is not because of COVID-19 but because capitalists are forcing people to cover the cost of their crisis. And all the while, governments are distributing trillions of dollars to business corporations.
The EU is giving billions of euros to its monopolies, while announcing new burdens for the people. In recent times, we have witnessed intense arguments between the EU countries over which monopolies, which sectors and, especially, which countries will get the lion’s share and onto which opponents to shift the greatest load. The people will pay either through tax increases or further austerity measures reducing social expenditure, education, health, and welfare – or both.
It is evident that throughout Europe, women are disproportionately affected as the most vulnerable in the workforce. Firstly, the pandemic has most affected the sectors of service and care in which the majority of employees are women. Secondly, women are disproportionately responsible for the care of children and older people. The absence of public services to support them, especially during the pandemic when even schools were closed, forced many women to stay at home. As a result, many lost their jobs or were channeled into part-time work. At the same time, women from the popular strata lost their jobs when employers no longer needed their workers, such as those employed in domestic work. Many such women are not protected by the social security system and fall through the net.
At the same time, governments are empowering employers to increase women’s exploitation, for example through unregulated teleworking, flexible working hours and reduced working rights.
They then take measures to suppress and criminalize workers’ struggles in a bid to silence us.
WIDF European organizations say: We will not let them do it.
The COVID-19 experience has increased the social and economic difficulties of many women and made clear that inequality, discrimination, and violence against women are inseparable from the inequality, oppression, and exploitation inherent in the capitalist system.
We will never agree that our needs can be sidelined when it is possible for every one of us to have a stable job with decent pay and reasonable hours, and access to free high-quality public health services, education and welfare. A just future for women and children cannot be realized in a society that puts the profits of business corporations at its center.
Tomorrow must find us strong and militant.
We call on all women and women’s organizations to take their place in the collective struggle in each of our countries and in the WIDF, participating fully in the counterattack to secure our rights and our future.
Our message is crystal clear: The deadliest viruses are exploitation and oppression. The most effective medicine is the struggle for our rights.