No matter how large or small, no class struggle can be put into its social context without understanding the current global capitalist economic crisis. Neoliberal policies flow from long-term and short-term fluctuations within the capitalist system, which no ruling class can ultimately control.
There used to be periods of ebbs and flows, where the system could find a way out of a cyclical crisis with some kind of stimulus — such as a bank bailout or a war — to revamp the system, but now the system is in permanent crisis and has been that way at least since the 2008 global meltdown.
This crisis brought us the “Great Recession” due to permanent capitalist overproduction — when workers on a global scale cannot afford to buy the products and services they produce. This recession made the poor even poorer, labor unions weaker and created more precarious jobs, especially for women.
The ruling class allowed the first Black person, Barack Obama, in 2008 to become president, in part as insurance against rebellions.
Food cuts heavy impact on women
Workers stand to lose their homes through eviction or foreclosure, lose their pensions, have cars repossessed and become unable to provide food for their families.
Speaking of the food crisis, the Biden administration announced on March 1 devastating cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that helped sustain low-income families and individuals with extra allotments during the pandemic that began March 2020. These allotments expired in 32 states and impacted 30 million people enrolled in the program. This will deepen hunger and malnutrition in the richest country in the world.
In May 2018, when there were over 44.2 million SNAP recipients, the National Women’s Law Center and Food Research and Action Center put out a fact sheet on the significance of SNAP in the lives of women and their communities across social lines. (tinyurl.com/3k64b3sb) These following statistics show the need for militant, organized campaigns led by women and gender-oppressed people, like occupying grocery stores to demand the release of healthy foods:
- Women are 63% of adult recipients;
- Women of color are 34% of nonelderly adult recipients and 31% of elderly adult recipients;
- White women are 24% of nonelderly adult recipients and 32% of elderly adult recipients;
- 18% of nonelderly women recipients are women with disabilities;
- 58% of all SNAP households with children are headed by a single adult, 92% of them by women;
- 44% of SNAP recipients are children (3.5% of whom have a disability);
- 34% of bisexual women, 32% of lesbians and 24% of straight women between 18 and 44 report participating in SNAP; and about 15% of transgender national survey respondents participate in SNAP.
War on workers, oppressed
The 2008 crisis accelerated a global social process, which is manifesting itself with massive layoffs in the thousands, especially in the tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. And just recently the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which reflects the billions of dollars in investments of tech industries, is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the reverberations that have just begun. It is the second largest such bank collapse since 2008.
Today the Federal Reserve Bank, the bank that all the other central banks either follow or get whipped back in line by, is slowly shutting down the economy with interest rate hikes, not because the bankers have a real plan. The Fed is in panic mode. They have run out of all other alternatives, and so in a desperate attempt to save U.S. capitalism, they are opening the doors of hell on workers, post COVID-19. In 2022, the Fed raised interest rates seven times and raised them again in February 2023.
The Federal Reserve has declared war on the workers and oppressed peoples of the world by raising interest rates, faster than at any other time, to essentially force the layoffs of as many workers as possible, drive up the unemployment rate, as well as lower workers’ wages, and help companies like Amazon and Starbucks bust unions.
The young workers who are in the vanguard of the organizing drives underway at Amazon, Starbucks and Target and many, many other places must be in the leadership of this struggle, because they are brave, radical and hate capitalism. And a great majority of these dynamic young organizers are women and gender oppressed. Some 70.5% of Starbucks workers are women, and this number reflects the union organizers, who are voting to unionize and at the same time, fighting union busting. Out of the over 1.6 million Amazon workers, 48% are women.
More than 60% of the nearly 400,000 U.S. workers Amazon hired into its lowest-paying hourly jobs between 2018 and 2020 were Black or Latinx, and for the years 2019 and 2020 more than half were women.
The historic struggles led by women and gender-oppressed people that will be recognized during Women’s History Month — against white supremacy, for equal pay for equal work, reproductive justice and for the right to organize — are still relevant today on a global scale.
What is needed now more than ever is a worldwide, classwide struggle for socialism, where capitalist greed for profit will be swept away, replaced by provision of human needs such as housing, health care, education, healthy food, child care and much more will be guaranteed for women and all humanity.
The writer is a co-coordinator of the International Working Women’s Coalition in New York City and an executive board member of the International Women’s Alliance.