Women

Communist Party Elects First Woman Leader

For the first time in its 95-year history, the Communist Party of Canada has a woman as its central leader. Liz Rowley was elected to the position by the CPC’s Central Committee, at a meeting in Toronto on the Jan. 30-31 weekend. The change of leadership follows the resignation of Miguel Figueroa, who stepped down for health reasons after serving in this office for 23 years.

Liz Rowley is well-known across Canada for her many years of activity in the Communist Party and in a wide range of people’s movements. Born in British Columbia in 1949, she joined the CPC in 1967. As a student at the University of Alberta, she was the Party’s youngest candidate in the 1972 federal election, speaking out strongly for women’s reproductive rights and an end to the Vietnam War while running in the riding of Edmonton Strathcona.

She has been a Party organizer in Ontario since 1973, apprenticing as a typesetter in Windsor before becoming Provincial Organizer in 1975, International Women’s Year. She has been a member of the Central Executive Committee since 1978. Living in Hamilton during the 1980s, she was deeply involved in many labour struggles to defend jobs, living standards, labour rights, women’s equality, social programs and Canadian sovereignty. While campaigning to ban the Ku Klux Klan, Rowley’s apartment was destroyed by arson. During the year long Stelco strike in 1981 she married a steelworker. She is now the proud mother of two adult children.

Moving to Toronto after being elected as Ontario leader of the Party in 1988, Rowley became a powerful grassroots spokesperson in the “Days of Action” fightback against brutal cutbacks imposed by the Mike Harris Tories, and was elected a Public School Trustee in East York. She has been an outspoken participant in many battles for the rights and interests of working people in Ontario, around such issues as defence of public education, for public auto insurance, the fight against plant closures, for peace and anti-racism, proportional representation, and much more. Along with Miguel Figueroa, she was instrumental in the membership struggle to block attempts to dissolve the CPC during the early 1990s.

Born in Montreal in 1952, Miguel Figueroa joined the CPC in 1977 a national field organizer for National Union of Students. In 1978, he became the party’s Greater Vancouver organizer, and from 1986 to 1992 he was the Party’s Atlantic region leader. Starting in the late 1980s, he and Rowley were key figures in the struggle to save the CPC. At the Party’s 30th Central Convention in December 1992, Figueroa was elected as its new leader. Over the last 23 years, Miguel Figueroa led the Communist Party through the landmark Figueroa case, eight federal election campaigns, and speaking across the country. He was also a prominent figure at the annual International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, representing the CPC many times.

The 38th Central Convention of the CPC will be held May 21-23 in Toronto. The Convention will feature a tribute to Miguel Figueroa as a highlight of the weekend’s agenda.

Over the coming months, Liz Rowley will meet with CPC members and supporters across the country. She will also speak at a series of public forums and events as party of the CPC’s campaign to block ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-country corporate pact signed by Canada last week in Auckland, New Zealand.

Source: http://communist-party.ca/statement/2031

International Women’s Day: Reinvigorating Marxist-Feminist Struggles in Canada

From Rebel Youth and written by a YCL comrade and friend

This March, the Young Communist League and the Communist Party of Canada will celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) by expressing solidarity with the ongoing and past struggles of women. While IWD is widely celebrated in civil society today, often little is known about the holiday’s socialist roots. IWD would not have been possible without the struggles of socialist women.

The political activism of Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) and Luise Zietz (1865-1922) was particularly influential. Zetkin and Zietz were committed communists dedicated to organizing working class women and educating their male comrades on the importance of women’s struggles. They understood that the success of socialism depended on proletariat women and men “fight[ing] hand in hand…against capitalist society.”1 In August 1910 at a general meeting of the Second International, Zietz suggested holding an International Women’s Day to bring attention to equal rights, the suffrage and the struggles of working class women. Zetkin seconded the motion and over a hundred women from seventeen different countries voted in support of creating IWD. The next year on March 18 (chosen to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Paris Commune) the first IWD demonstrations were held in Europe. It was a tremendous success with an estimated 300 demonstrations being held across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1922, with the help of Zetkin, Lenin would name International Women’s Day an official communist holiday.

Since its formation in 1911 IWD has been used as a platform to rally the masses around a number of issues including exploitation, poverty and war. It is useful to revisit a couple examples here. In 1915 in Berne, Switzerland, Zetkin led socialist women from both neutral and warring countries in a demonstration against the ongoing destruction of World War I. Demonstrators distributed manifestos arguing that the working class had little to gain from the bourgeois war and called on women to organize in its opposition. Zetkin argued:

Who profits from this war? Only a tiny minority in each nation: The manufacturers of rifles and cannons, of armor-plate and torpedo boats, the shipyard owners and the suppliers of the armed forces’ needs. In the interests of their profits, they have fanned the hatred among the people, thus contributing to the outbreak of the war. The workers have nothing to gain from this war, but they stand to lose everything that is dear to them.2

In 1917, Alexandra Kollontai led one of the most dramatic IWD demonstrations in protest of the deteriorating living conditions in Russia. Women marched from the factories to the breadlines in protest of high food and rent prices and along the way they persuaded a number of male workers to join in solidarity with the march. The Czar felt so threatened by the women’s rebellion that two days later he ordered it to be stopped by means of gunfire if necessary.3

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Gender Wage Gap in Alberta Increasing

From Canadian Labour Reporter 

A new report from the Parkland Institute says the wage gap between men and women in Alberta is heading in the wrong direction.

According to the report from the University of Alberta research group, full-time working women earn about 37 per cent less per year than men.

When comparing the average total income in Alberta, women earn about 42 per cent less per year than men.

In comparison, the gender wage gap for full-time earners sits at about 20 per cent in Saskatchewan, 25 per cent in Quebec and 26 per cent in Ontario.

Ricardo Acuna, the executive director of the Parkland Institute, says the wage gap has been growing since 1993 and he worries the looming provincial budget will only make things worse.

Premier Jim Prentice has promised a tough budget that will reshape the foundations of how the province raises and spends money, a move prompted by the steep slide in the price of oil.

“Right now the premier is talking about changing things around, he’s talking about maybe cutting what we’re spending on the civil service, maybe rolling back civil service salaries,” says Acuna. “These are jobs that are predominantly held by women.”

Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity!

IWD 2015 greetings from the Communist Party of Canada

March 8, International Women’s Day, is a time to celebrate our historic struggles for equality, and to unite around today’s challenges. On IWD 2015, the Communist Party of Canada extends our warm solidarity to all who stand for peace, equality, democracy and social progress.

In September 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. 30,000 activists held a parallel Forum, while government representatives from 189 countries hammered out the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Despite its shortcomings, the document was amazingly comprehensive, covering women and the environment, economy, education, health, armed conflict, and much more.

The United Nations is highlighting the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration with the slogan “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” Yet women in much of the world seem even further away from empowerment.

In the past two decades, “fighting to defend the rights of women” has become a frequent rationale for direct military intervention. And while the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIL are deeply reactionary, such movements are largely a product of the imperialist drive for resources and profits. Prior to western interventions, the status of women in the secular states of Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Iraq was much better than in Saudi Arabia and other regimes backed by Canada.

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