As in the previous years, the EU Institutions, including the Commission and Parliament celebrated the International Women’s Day.
But does it know the origin of the day?
Like ‘the proletariat’, the ‘women’ celebrated on 8 March are an abstract collective being. ‘Women’s Day’ is not fortuitously also a Marxist invention, first organised by the Socialist Party of America, in 1909. Given the party’s failure to mobilise workers, its leaders sought support from other sectors – in particular the suffragists. The socialist international subsequently held women’s days globally. In March 1917, Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai led a massive protest that helped set off the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and eventually allowed the Communist to seize power. Out of gratitude, Lenin declared Women’s Day an official holiday in 1922. Other Communists regimes eventually followed. It is only in the 1970s, when the communist bloc obtained the official recognition of March 8 as International Women’s Day by the United Nations that the celebration spread in Western Europe.
For communists in search of legitimacy, seeking the support of women by promising reforms like easy divorce, abortion etc. made sense. In addition, these legal reforms constituted a smokescreen drawing away attention from the brutal collectivization, which subjected millions to underpaid slave work to achieve the party’s objectives. Having this in mind, we should ask the question whether the EU needs to celebrate women’s day to acquire its legitimacy or, like its communist predecessors, uses the celebration as a smokescreen while implementing policies harming men and women alike?
If the EU’s institutions are genuinely concerned strengthening the European identity, why not celebrating European ‘heroes’ instead of an abstract category?
Social cohesion in the ancient Greek city-states was forged among other by the celebration of local heroes. Instead of a Women’s Day, why not celebrate a Vivaldi or a Dante day to highlight the cultural roots of Europe? And an Aristotle day to celebrate the main founder of Europe’s philosophy. Such celebrations would also tell immigrants what Europe stands for.
One thing is for certain, ‘Women’s Day’ does not stand for the same thing today, as it did in 1909. And while we celebrate the principles behind it, we should not necessarily share in its historical roots.