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Sharmistha Choudhury,
AIRWO (All India Revolutionary Women’s Organisation, India

It’s lovely to hear from you.

We are reading about the second wave of coronavirus in Europe in newspapers here and are full of apprehension. I also read that France and Germany have opted for another month-long lockdown. My best wishes to all of you and solidarity to all comrades fighting against the callousness of governments in effectively dealing with this pandemic. Meanwhile, the general news from Chile and Bolivia is encouraging in these bleak times. The women’s protest in Poland against anti-abortion legislation is also inspiring.

The situation in India is grim. The Hindu rightwing, fascist central government has intensified its attacks on the people. The economy has crashed. Joblessness and poverty are on the rise. India is 94 out of 107 countries on the Global Hunger Index, which shows how pathetic the situation is. On the other hand, Indian billionaires are getting richer and occupying top positions on the list of richest people in the world.

Unfortunately, the Indian Left has simply not been able to get its act together. A large section of the liberals is shouting that Covid is a hoax (like Trump) and there is no need of any special measures. Since the lockdown has increased joblessness and poverty, the common people are now having to make the choice between death by Covid and death by hunger. The government is using the misery of the people as an excuse to lift all restrictions, leading to a possible steep spike in Covid cases very soon. The Parliamentary Opposition simply refuses to raise and struggle for the demand that the government should shoulder economic responsibility and ensure that every needy family gets cash allowance from the government during the pandemic.

The fascist government is going full speed ahead with its agenda of converting India from a secular country into a Hindu nation. It is upholding Islamophobia and the recent incidents in France have given a filip to this. Voices of dissent are being ruthlessly crushed. Anyone criticising the government is being labelled as anti-national and put into prison.

Attacks on women are on the rise. The fascists are trying to seize all hard won women’s rights and champion the philosophy of Hindutva which relegates the status of woman to that of a slave to man. Dalit ((in the traditional Hindu caste system, a Dalit is a member of the lowest caste) women are being attacked and raped by so-called upper caste men. Those who protest against this are victimised by the government. In the incident of the rape and murder of a young girl in Hathras of Uttar Pradesh province, even a journalist going to report the incident was arrested and charged with anti-terrorist laws. The government did everything to pretend that no rape happened and a senior doctor in the hospital where the girl was first admitted before she died was dismissed from his job because he had publicly said that the girl had indeed been raped. Many more such incidents have occurred since then.

AIRWO is protesting against this state of affairs in the different provinces where it has strength. But the pandemic-related reality is not conducive to protests of the magnitude demanded by the situation.

I think I have written rather a long reply! I hope I do not strain your patience!

With love and solidarity,

Sharmistha

International Call Corona pandemics

World Women’s Conference of grassroots women
Continental Coordinators
April 2020

The international militants women’s movement’s international call and catalogue of demands to all governments of the world

We demand protection- We do not want a state of emergency but a liberated world!

Without us women there is no solution to any of the urgent problems of this time. We women unite in the fight for a future worth living for all mankind. We do not agree with the way we are governed. We have learned from the past. The world economic and financial crisis of 2008 brought profits to banks and monopolies while the burden of the crisis was shifted onto workers, women and families. With this international call we rise up. We are managing this everyday crisis. We make our demands to the governments and monopolies. NOW!

The Corona pandemic is spreading over our countries and continents. It has already killed more than 100,000 people worldwide. We mourn the loss of these people and feel connected to their loved ones. Why do so many people have to die? Because capitalism has created a worldwide health crisis, and health systems are collapsing. There is a lack of protective clothing for doctors, nurses and carers. There is a lack of protection for the population. Old and sick and poor people are not being treated. This is a scandal. What is already dreadful for the rich industrial nations is a catastrophe in the poor countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and for refugees. We are fighting for a health system in which people are the centre of interest.

We accuse the capitalist profit economy of putting profit before people. While on the one hand the spread of the virus is to be slowed down by means of contact bans and curfews worldwide, the workers in the industrial plants, the textile factories, have to continue working very close to each other.

We demand worldwide:

  • Extensive protection of workers in the textile industry, in the industrial plants, a ban on dismissals and lay-offs, continued payment of wages in case of plant closures, increase of salaries and reduction of working hours with full wage compensation!

  • Effective protective clothing for doctors, nurses and nursing staff!

  • Free, mass testing of all people in the neighbourhoods where we live!

  • Immediate expansion of the medical infrastructure!

  • Creation of new jobs and traineeships in the nursing sector!

  • Free distribution of protective masks and disinfectants!

  • Free care and medication for the sick!

  • The money for this must be taken from the big corporations and from the gigantic military budgets!

Although so-called “simulation games” have long been in place to prepare countries for an epidemic, no government in the world has taken appropriate precautions. All governments are misinforming, some are even belittling the pandemic with serious consequences.

We denounce those who steal protective equipment out of national selfishness, export protective equipment for pure profit while leaving their own people without protection, or poach care workers from poor countries.

We demand worldwide coordinated research and development of vaccines, medicines, for all people! No enticement of qualified personnel!

The current crisis demonstrates an overwhelming, transnational solidarity of working people. It reveals creativity, inventiveness and courage. Women are at the centre of the organisation of this day-to-day crisis life worldwide: in the care professions, in trade, in families. We are prepared to give everything for life, we support measures necessary for our health, but we are angry when our willingness to make sacrifices is exploited to reduce our rights and freedoms.

We demand broad information campaigns instead of state violence by the military and police, threats of arrest and warnings! We will not let our hard-won rights be taken away! No state of emergency exercises!

We condemn these measures!

Due to the curfew, women in Africa, Asia, Latin America can no longer sell their goods, they have no money, no food – famine is threatening people in the poverty-stricken areas of the world. Migrant women and refugees are particularly affected worldwide. Day labourers, migrant workers work in provinces that are often far away from their homes. The factory owners have thrown them onto the streets without pay, and they too are dying of hunger. The police and the military are often brutal. Farmers can no longer sell their crops.

We demand:

  • Financial security for day labourers, migrant and temporary workers and for small traders!

  • Acceptance and distribution of agricultural products by governments!

  • Free distribution of food to poor families in cities and rural areas!

  • Running, clean water for every household!

  • Comprehensive measures for the most vulnerable: refugees, poor, homeless!

  • Dissolution of the refugee camps and safe housing for them!

  • Fight against racist attempts to create division!

We condemn these measures!

For the majority of the population, curfew actually means living together in a small space, with hardly any opportunity for a break or personal retreat. No school, no kindergarten, no work. This increases domestic violence against women and children. Women take care of the mental, emotional and physical health of all family members without paying attention to their own needs.

We demand:

  • Ban all evictions and foreclosures

  • Prohibition of giving the tenant notice of termination in case of overdue rent!

  • State aid, hot meals, and emergency care for children and old people!

  • Teaching and learning materials as well as help for children in case of school closures!

  • Information in the media for victims of violence!

  • Help and provision of rooms for the accommodation of victims of violence!

  • Use networks to outlaw gender-specific violence!

Women of the world, the corona crisis is a historic challenge and we are responding to it with a historic step. Across continents we have agreed on this call and these demands. The Corona crisis reveals a systemic crisis. Capitalism is not able to provide us with a life in dignity. So we take matters into our own hands. Today we can see once again that women are “essential” to the system. And this awareness gives us strength to fight for our demands. Therefore we have to develop the international cooperation we have already started to a higher level:

  • We strengthen our solidarity with one another and coordinate our activities across ideological differences as an international movement.

  • We share forms of struggle such as “noise demonstrations”, banging with pots, and find new ones.

  • For the poorest countries, debt relief is needed.

  • The ruling monopolies must pay for the crisis – not the broad masses. This can be done through a special tax.

  • We must fight for better working conditions and higher wages.

Only if we organise ourselves we will become a force, in trade unions, in neighbourhoods, in women’s associations. Strengthen the world women’s movement of the World Women’s Conference of grassroots women. A great opportunity for this is the World Women’s Conference of grassroots women in Tunisia at the end of 2021.

Let us be like a olive tree

Rooted in the earth

Reaching for the sun and strong

Nobody and nothing can break us!