On this day every year I feel duty-bound to say a few words about International Women’s Day, a communist holiday nowadays astonishingly recognised in Britain.
This year is no exception, but when I sat down to write I realised that there was nothing I could add to what I wrote last year. Since paraphrasing just for the hell of it seems pointless, and repetition is said to be the mother of learning, I’m republishing my last year’s piece verbatim.
I’m man enough to admit that laziness and indisposition are also contributing factors in this self-plagiarism.
First we had Mothering Sunday, a religious holiday Western Christians celebrate on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Then, under the influence of the US, Mothering Sunday was largely replaced by Mother’s Day, a secular holiday without any religious overtones whatsoever. That’s understandable: our delicate sensibilities can no longer accommodate any Christian festivals other than Christmas Shopping.
Now that secular but basically unobjectionable holiday has been supplemented by International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated by all progressive mankind on 8 March. Our delicate sensibilities aren’t offended at all.
Actually, though the portion of mankind that celebrates 8 March calls itself progressive, it isn’t really entitled to this modifier – unless one accepts the propensity for murdering millions just for the hell of it as an essential aspect of progress.
For, not to cut too fine a point, 8 March is a communist event, declared a national holiday by the Bolsheviks in 1917, immediately after they seized power and started killing people with the gusto and on a scale never before seen in history. A few wires were expertly pulled after the war, and IWD also got enshrined in Soviet satellites.
The event actually originated in America, where the Socialist Party arbitrarily chose that date to express solidarity with the 1909 strike of female textile workers. Yet the holiday didn’t catch on in the States, doubtless because the Socialist Party never did.
Outside the Soviet bloc, 8 March went uncelebrated, unrecognised and, until recently, unknown. I remember back in 1974, when I worked at NASA, visiting Soviet astronauts made a big show of wishing female American employees a happy 8 March, eliciting only consternation and the stock Texan response of “Say what?”
The event was big in the Soviet Union, with millions of men giving millions of women bunches of mimosas, boxes of chocolates – and, more important, refraining from giving them a black eye, a practice rather more widespread in Russia than in the West.
But not on 8 March. That was the day when men scoured their conscience clean by being effusively lovey-dovey – so that they could resume abusing women the very next day, on 9 March. For Russia was then, and still remains, out of reach for the fashionable ideas about women’s equality or indeed humanity. As the Russian proverb goes, “A chicken is no bird, a wench is no person.”
Much as one may be derisory about feminism, it’s hard to justify the antediluvian abuse, often physical, that’s par for the course in Russia, especially outside central Moscow or Petersburg. Proponents of the plus ça change philosophy of history would be well-advised to read Dostoyevsky on this subject.
In A Writer’s Diary Dostoyevsky describes in terrifying detail the characteristic savagery of a peasant taking a belt or a stick to his trussed-up wife, lashing at her, ignoring her pleas for mercy until, pounded into a bloody pulp, she stops pleading or moving. However, according to the writer, this in no way contradicted the brute’s inner spirituality, so superior to Western materialistic legalism. Ideology does work in mysterious ways.
The Russian village still has the same roads (typically none) as at the time that was written, and it still has the same way of treating womenfolk – but not on 8 March. On that day the Soviets were house-trained to express their solidarity with the oppressed women of the world, or rather specifically of the capitalist world.
As a conservative, I have my cockles warmed by the traditionalist way in which the Russians lovingly maintain Soviet traditions, including the odd bit of murder by the state, albeit so far on a smaller scale. Why we have adopted some of the same traditions, at a time when communism has supposedly collapsed, is rather harder to explain.
But why stop here? Many Britons, especially those of the Labour persuasion, already celebrate May Day, with red flags flying to symbolise the workers’ blood spilled by the ghastly capitalists. May Day is celebrated in Russia, so what better reason do we need? None at all. But why not spread the festivities more widely?
The Russians also celebrate 7 November, on which day in 1917 the Bolsheviks introduced social justice expressed in mass murder and universal slavery. I say we’ve been ignoring this glorious event far too long. And neither do we celebrate Red Army Day on 23 February – another shameful omission.
But at least we seem to be warming up to 8 March, an important communist event. At least we’re moving in the right direction.
A reader of mine suggested that those who celebrate IWD should perform the ballistically and metaphysically improbable act of inserting the holiday into a certain receptacle originally designed for exit only. While I don’t express myself quite so robustly in this space, I second the motion.
Cherie (Mrs Tony) Blair once predictably expressed her support for IWD, ending her letter to The Times with “Count me in”. Well, count me out.