This past fall, the U.S. section of Radical Women was honored to attend two conferences in Caracas, Venezuela, sponsored by the Women’s International Democratic Federation. The WIDF is an organization founded in 1945 that today focuses on opposition to neoliberalism.
Laura Mannen, a unionist and mother from Portland, Oregon, and Debra O’Gara, a Native American attorney from Seattle, participated with 140 women from 24 countries in the Fourth Regional Conference of the WIDF from Sept. 22-24. From Sept. 24-26, attendees were joined by 400 Venezuelans for a second conference, the Manuela Sáenz Forum in Solidarity with the Women of Venezuela.
Dozens of women approached O’Gara and Mannen to express their elation upon learning of the existence of revolutionary feminists within the “belly of the beast.” On the last day, Mannen presented a statement that brought the entire crowd to their feet, chanting with her as she called for a socialist movement of international solidarity. As she ended, she was embraced by Cuban revolutionary leader Vilma Espín, Venezuela’s National Women’s Institute President María León, and WIDF President Marcia Campos of Brazil.
Below are excerpts from a Radical Women contribution to a workshop on the WIDF and the struggle against neoliberalism, followed by excerpts from Mannen’s speech.
Workshop statement on women and neoliberalism
The movement against neoliberalism has expanded around the world. Hundreds of thousands of women have demonstrated their opposition, because we pay the highest price for privatization and cuts in government subsidies to food, education and healthcare. It is we who must live under the corrupt and autocratic governments put in power by the “free traders.”
We are carrying the multinational corporations on our backs. And from Seattle to São Paulo, Cancun, San Salvador and far beyond, women say “¡Basta!”
It is important to identify the economic system — international capitalism — which has spawned this threat to human existence. Even in the most industrialized countries, capitalism holds millions of people in abject poverty. In those countries which multinational corporations deliberately underdevelop and exploit for cheap labor, millions of women and their families are forced to live and work in utter misery.
As feminists from the United States, we know the dangers of hoping that women can be saved by one of the twin parties of U.S. capitalism. “Vote for Democrats!” we are often told, as though there is a meaningful difference between these two pro-war, anti-union parties.
But while President Bush represents the far right and fundamentalist Christian wing of U.S. imperialism, the Democrats are only too happy to go along for the ride. They endorsed the war on Iraq and Bush’s attacks on political and judicial rights. They have approved the undermining of immigrant rights.
Many, many working women in our country oppose what both parties are doing to our civil liberties and to our sisters and brothers around the world. Women’s willingness to struggle is fired by the conviction that these are dangerous times with much hanging in the balance.
Today the crisis of capitalism and the bankruptcy of neoliberalism are creating a unique opportunity for women. It is within our power to lead the ideological struggle for a new world system based on sharing wealth instead of misery. After all, who knows better than women that life cannot go on like this much longer? A new world is not a dream, it is a necessity.
Declaration of solidarity by Laura Mannen
I want to offer a strong embrace of solidarity to the Venezuelan people, who are valiantly struggling against U.S. imperialism. We affirm that you have the right to be free of imperialist domination and intervention. You have the right to live free of the terror of a coup d’etat sponsored by the U.S., as has happened so many times throughout the history of Latin America.
I also salute you for your courage in confronting the empire. Your rebellious spirit is contagious to all of the peoples of the world.
To show our solidarity, we will work to develop consciousness regarding the nature of U.S. capitalism and to strengthen resistance to the powers of Wall Street and their servants within the government.
As an organization of working women, Radical Women participates in the union movement, educating our working class about the betrayals committed by the leadership of the AFL-CIO, who have stood at the side of imperialism against Central and South American workers. They have to take responsibility for the blood on their hands, and they must immediately stop supporting the State Department and the CIA. We have passed resolutions in state labor councils making these demands.
U.S. workers need our own voice, a voice that is not affiliated with the capitalist parties that betray workers throughout the world, and who also betray us. When we achieve this task, we will all be able to celebrate! Celebrate because U.S. workers will have recognized their interests as a class, which are the same interests of all the poor and workingclass people in Venezuela, in Iraq, in Cuba, in Colombia and throughout the whole world.
Down with the warmongers!
Up with the socialist and feminist solidarity movement! Up with a planet cleansed of poverty, war, and oppression!
¡Que vivan las mujeres!
¡Que viva el socialismo internacional!