Report on the Women’s International Democratic Federation 60th anniversary celebrations and conference of the European section in Paris in December 2005.
WOMEN from all around the world gathered in Paris last week to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Women’s International Democratic Federation at the UNESCO building on 6th December. Delegations, including one from the New Communist Party of Britain, also came to pay tribute to many women who have been playing an exceptional role in the battle for women’s rights and equality under different circumstances and conditions around the globe.
This was an event that many thought would never happen after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries – who had been the staunchest supporters of the WIDF with resources of all kinds.
They recognised that the struggle for women’s equality was part and parcel of the struggle for peace and socialism and against oppression and injustice.
Certainly the western imperialist powers thought – and hoped – that the WIDF would disappear without Soviet support. It did take a knock back but it has survived and is now growing again, largely due to the hard work and dedication of the women involved.
If anything it is now stronger than before, independent of backing from any one particular source, standing definitely on its own feet uniting women from the Third World, the developed world and every corner of the planet.
Furthermore, the Russian section, in the former Soviet Union, remains one of the staunchest divisions in spite of the anti-socialist government there at the moment.
The WIDF has survived and now grows in strength because the issues that it champions have not gone away – the need to fight for women’s rights, peace and social justice –grows more intense.
Skevi Koukouma, who is co-ordinator of WIDF-Europe, organised the anniversary event and a conference the European Regional Bureau the next day in the town hall of La Corneuve d’Aubervilliers – a Paris suburb with a commitment to supporting women’s rights.
The event began with speeches of support from official representatives of UNESCO, the European Parliament, the French government and a number of ambassadors to France – including the Cuban and Brazilian ambassadors, who brought good wishes on behalf of their governments.
Then the WIDF president, Marcia Campos from Brazil, gave a long speech covering the history of the movement and its struggles to re-establish itself. This was followed by speeches from the leaders of various regional bureaux of the WIDF, reporting on their struggles and the issues that faced them.
They included WIDF vice-president Mayada Abbassi from Palestine, Dora Carcaño from the WIDF American office, Adelia de Carvalho from Angola, representing the African WIDF office, Linda Mattar from the Lebanon, representing the WIDF office of Arab countries and Ha Thie Kie from Vietnam, representing the WIDF Asian office.
All the speakers linked the struggle for women’s rights to the struggle for human rights in general, for peace and against imperialist warmongering. They also linked it to the class struggle.
After the speeches the WIDF paid homage to women who have been particularly active in various struggles in different parts of the world by presenting them with special certificates.
The WIDF issued a statement from the anniversary event, summarising the views expressed there. It said that the participants “send a militant message of solidarity and common action to the democratic and progressive women’s movements and generally to women throughout the world”.
It continued: “The Women’s International Democratic Federation, founded on the 1st December 1945, just after the victory over Hitlerite fascism and the end of the Second World War, unites women regardless of race, nationality, religion and political opinion so that they can work together to ensure peace, democracy, national independence and to establish bonds of friendship and solidarity among the women of the whole world.
“WIDF expresses its anxiety for the international developments that are characterised by the continuation and consolidation of the so-called new world order. The position that what has henceforth prevailed is the undermining of international law and the imposition of the rights of the powerful has been affirmed.
“The United States and its allies wish to maintain and expand their political, economic and strategic hegemony to every corner of the planet.
“The terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 in the US presented the opportunity to strengthen their imperialist policy and the excuse for greater arbitrariness based mainly on the dogma of preventative war, but also for the attacks on political and human rights and individual freedoms.
“The main examples of this policy were the wars waged in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore and attempt is being made be every possible means, by using the cloak of alleged democratisation, to overthrow all the regimes that the US considers as being non-friendly.”
The WIDF calls for the tackling of terrorism to be conducted collectively under the aegis of the United Nations. It asserts that “the only way to safeguard world peace and stability is by upholding international law, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of independent states, ridding the United Nations from American influence and strengthening the role of the organisation in tackling international problems.”
This glosses over some aspects of the history of the United Nations, which sanctioned and supported the invasions of Korea, the Congo and Yugoslavia. The UN is an international forum that reflects the balance of power in the world. When the anti-imperialists are strong, the UN can become a strong bulwark against imperialism but when the imperialists are generally stronger they can use the UN as an instrument to oppress small nations. The refusal of the UN to back the American and British invasion of Iraq in 2003 reflects a division within the global ruling class – a division that has weakened imperialism and given strength to anti-imperialism. But, like the machinery of state, the UN is not neutral in the class struggle.
The WIDF statement goes on to condemn the effects of neo-liberal globalisation, saying that “the gains of working people and especially of women are taking a battering; labour relations are being deregulated, the social role of the state is restricted and gender, class and social inequalities are intensifying.
“The importance of steps for women’s education, for sexual and reproductive health and rights, for economic advancement, for political participation and for putting an end to violence are far from their aims.”
The statement expressed support and solidarity for “the heroic people of Cuba”, suffering from the illegal US blockade.
Looking back to the Beijing Platform for Action for women’s rights, the WIDF recognised that the road for women’s emancipation has a long way to go yet. “The space between political decisions and their implementation is widening. Poverty, violence against women, unemployment, low participation in the decision making bodies, the spread of AIDS/HIV among women and young girls, the affect on women and girls of being in a conflict situation, the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children, and the exploitation of migrant women continue to give the democratic and progressive women of the world the obligation to unify their struggle against those who are ruling the world economically and politically.”
The following day, at the conference of the European bureau in La Corneuve d’Aubervilliers, around 30 delegates discussed mainly administrative matters to strengthen the organisation, increase its activity and relevance and to arrange future events.
These included a meeting of the executive committee of the WIDF to take place in Beirut next year and a congress of the whole organisation, which will probably take place in 2007. Nicosia in Cyprus has been proposed as a venue but this is subject to agreement by other regional bureaux around the world.
The WIDF has to strike a difficult balance in holding its events in different regions in turn and also bearing in mind that member organisations are not rich and raising travel expenses for delegates can be difficult.
Ironically now delegations from socialist and progressive Third World countries like Brazil, Cuba, Vietnam and Angola are more likely to have real support from their own governments, while delegates from the imperialist countries receive no such support.
Olga Daric from the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia raised the issue of Milena Arezina, a senior government finance minister in Yugoslavia during the government of Milosovic. After his deposition – engineered by invading imperialist forces – she was pressured to falsify an audit of a major socialist manufacturing enterprise to make it appear uneconomic. She refused as was instantly beaten up by imperialist military thugs and was severely injured.
Milena Arezina was thrown out of her job and now has great difficulty making a living. “The American want all our women to have no jobs but prostitution,” said Olga Daric.
One delegate, who works for the European Union Secretariat, reported that the left group of MEPs within the European Parliament are now facing an uphill struggle on women’s issues because that parliament is now dominated by the right, especially the Christian Democrats who maintain a repressive attitude to women’s reproductive rights.
The left MEPs raise initiative after initiative only to find they are defeated or omitted altogether. The current European Parliament has merged the programme dealing with violence against women with the programme on drug abuse. It has also lumped together the issues of fighting poverty and the trafficking of women. Obviously none of these issues is being taken seriously.
Much of the WIDF work is taken up with protests and lobbying governments and international bodies like the UN and the EU.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dominance of US imperialism in the world, the need to defend women’s rights around the world has grown. But so has the determination of politically active women to refuse to allow the clock to be put back on women’s rights. This organisation is not going to go away. It is going to grow and in time it will be not just tugging the sleeve of the various global authorities – it will be seriously challenging them to deliver equal rights and social justice for all.
NCPB Politburo member Daphne Liddle represented the Party at both events.