Today the name Amazon is synonymous with capitalist greed and exploitation. Outside Amazon facilities and Whole Foods stores across the country, activists are chanting: “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” Their words are directed at Jeff Bezos, owner of the Seattle-based company and supermarket chain, who is the richest person in the world.
When Amazon first started out, the obscenely wealthy company co-opted a name that refers to women and gender-oppressed warriors of the ancient world. Said to be skilled archers, horse riders and fighters, the Amazons were depicted on pottery fighting soldiers of the Greek state.
Today’s Amazons are the working-class militants — women, nonbinary, transgender, agender, gender queer, gender fluid, gender-nonconforming, queer, Indigenous Two Spirits, and other identities of all nationalities, disabilities and ages — who have aimed the arrow of class solidarity at the richest corporations in human history.
Women, most of them Black, comprise almost half of the 5,800-person workforce trying to win a union at Amazon in Bessemer, Ala. Their struggle is inspirational to all workers!
Women — Black, Latinx, Indigenous, im/migrants and trans — are leading the movement for “Fight for $15 and a union” and an end to sexual harassment. They have gone on strike and carried out other job actions against multibillion dollar fast-food corporations, such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King. Nurses, teachers and other essential workers have struck for better wages and benefits and safe working conditions during the pandemic.
In India, women are leaders in the historic and prolonged farmers strike.
These struggles carry on the 110-year-old tradition of International Working Women’s Day. This special day was established in 1910 at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen. Over 100 women delegates from 17 countries voted unanimously for the resolution to declare an annual IWWD, which was introduced by German socialists Clara Zetkin and Luise Zeitz. It was intended to build worldwide solidarity and strengthen the fight against capitalism.
From the first celebration in 1911 until today, this day has honored the women and gender-oppressed warriors of the working class around the globe.
‘Capitalism creates its own gravediggers’
Capitalism remains the dominant mode of production. This system of exploitation still imposes additional burdens of imperialism, patriarchy, racism, ableism, ageism, anti-LGBTQ+ and gender oppression, xenophobia, Islamophobia and more — on the most oppressed members of the working class and the nations of the Global South.
But as Marxists have recognized for over 160 years, capitalism creates its own gravediggers. The masses of workers and oppressed people have no stake in the perpetuity of wage slavery. Women and gender-oppressed workers are shouldering more than their share in the class struggles bursting forth throughout the world.
Zetkin wrote in 1921: “Even the most downtrodden of the downtrodden, women who have lived for centuries and millennia under the spell of age-old religious and social beliefs, rules, customs, and practices, are entering the revolutionary struggle.”
For women she stressed: “we who must surely harbor the strongest and most implacable hatred for capitalism, we must strive to combine sober assessment of the situation before us with a bold wager on the great goal of victory.” (Report on Communist Women’s Movement, July 8, 1921)
Today Bessemer is Ground Zero in the class struggle. While they may not be saying it explicitly, Black women there have begun digging the graves of Bezos and his whole greedy capitalist class.
Long live the spirit of International Working Women’s Day!