feminism, organisation and class struggle

a day of mutual learning and exchange hosted by The Commune, 20th February, London

We believe that most of the left has a pretty poor record on gender. Even if overt sexism is less common than in the past, informal hierarchies and alienated, gendered relations run rampant. But this practice can –  and must – change if we are ever going to revolutionise society.

As against swallowing the old left traditions, we believe it is important that the left critically reappraise our theory, practice and organisation in the light of socialist feminist politics, as well as the experience of working women’s struggles more broadly.

This is not a day for The Commune to lay down any ‘party line’, but rather to create a space for discussion of the insights of anti-capitalist feminism and the inter-relation between class and gender struggles. We hope to exchange ideas in a participatory, un-dogmatic and inclusive manner. We have planned three workshops.  Continue reading “feminism, organisation and class struggle”

why are we still protesting this crap?

Bahar Mustafa writes on debates among feminists in Oxford over a lap dancing club

Oxford Brookes University sells itself as a modern, business-orientated institution which boasts a hefty contribution of £1 million every single day of the year to the UK economy.

As impressive as that may be to many people, some friends and I thought it odd that such a reputable institution, with its myriad of student organised societies, should be fiercely lacking in a space where gender inequality is highlighted and challenged. So earlier this year, an enthusiastic group of us of varying backgrounds, genders and sexualities, founded the first Feminist Society at Brookes; aka: OMFG! Organised Multicultural Feminist Group. Continue reading “why are we still protesting this crap?”

a strike made in hollywood

‘Feel-good’ hit movie Made in Dagenham didn’t make Sheila Cohen feel very good…

A film about a strike that really happened, a strike that brought a huge multinational to a standstill, a strike that was waged and led by women… What’s not to like? Only that Made In Dagenham fails to tell the true, and far more significant, story of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike – a story of class rebellion against exploitation rather than of softly gender-focused togetherness.

For its first half hour, Made In Dagenham looks good. Apart from the stripping-off scenes in the sweaty factory, unanimously repudiated by strike survivors, the film more or less tells it like it was – i.e. that the sewing machinists were involved in a grading dispute. The emphasis is necessary, because, along with almost every account of the dispute over the last 40-odd years, the next two-thirds of the film stubbornly present it as a “strike for equal pay”. Continue reading “a strike made in hollywood”

women at the cutting edge… 30th october

A day of discussions hosted by Feminist Fightback. 11am – 5pm, Saturday 30 October at The Arbour, 100 Shandy Street, London E1 4ST (nearest tube Stepney Green)

On 20 October the ConDem government’s “Spending Review” will detail enormous cuts in public services. We are already feeling the impact of earlier cuts many effected by Labour; nurseries and libraries are closing, jobs are being lost. As the government “austerity drive” steps up, the reality is that cuts will hit the lives of all but the wealthiest. In many cases women will be hit the hardest with recent reports estimating  that women will suffer 72% of the tax and benefit cuts. Continue reading “women at the cutting edge… 30th october”

a miserable case of british ‘justice’

Sarah Taylor reflects on the case of a French migrant worker in a battle with her employer and the courts

In late August I attended a court case of a female factory worker who was suing her employers for negligence. How I came to be there in the first place is not important, but what I observed and saw that day made me want to share the experience. I have attended a few court cases as an observer in the public gallery.

The case involved a French migrant worker who was suing her employers for negligence in a personal injury case.  She had been told to lift a container off a factory conveyor belt and in the process had badly injured her wrist. She testified that she was instructed to do so by an aggressive line manager whose bullying and aggressive behavior had made her working life miserable. After the injury had occurred she had decided to seek compensation since it had rendered her unable to work for some time. Continue reading “a miserable case of british ‘justice’”

women at the cutting edge…

An event hosted by Feminist Fightback. Saturday 30 October 11am – 5pm, QMW Mile End Road, London E1  (provisionally – please check feministfightback.org.uk for confirmation).

Open to people of all genders. Free creche available: please send an email to feminist.fightback@gmail.com to confirm a place.

On 20 October the ConDem government’s “Spending Review” will detail enormous cuts in public services. We are already feeling the impact of earlier cuts, many effected by Labour: nurseries and libraries are closing, jobs are being lost. As the government “austerity drive” steps up, the reality is that cuts will hit the lives of all but the wealthiest. In many cases women will be hit the hardest with recent reports estimating that women will suffer 72% of the tax and benefit cuts. Continue reading “women at the cutting edge…”

the ‘social wage’ and the hackney nurseries campaign

Camille Barbagallo and Nic Beuret look at the role of public services and how the cuts axe is falling

Childcare services in the UK are under attack. Childcare services across the country are being defunded, abolished and downgraded. In this article we start with the specific cuts in Hackney to nursery places and analyse these cuts in the context of the gendered nature of the ConDem’s austerity budget. We explore both what enables these cuts to happen now and what their effects will be and conclude with some reflections on possible paths of resistance within the current crisis of care.

Let’s be honest – the public services that are being cut include things that we need, but we hate how they are given to us: like unemployment benefits. They also involve jobs that we rely on but resent having to do. But what is also true is that they are part of a ‘social wage’ fought for and won by pervious generations. Continue reading “the ‘social wage’ and the hackney nurseries campaign”

feminism, socialism and political organisation: questions for the contemporary left

a session at The Commune’s summer school ‘Beyond Resistance’: this session is from 2pm on Saturday 19th June

It is now thirty years ago since the publication of Beyond the Fragments: essays by three women active in feminist and socialist groups, both Leninist and libertarian, on the need for the left to consider anew the question of organisation in light of insights gained from the women’s movement.

As feminists drew attention to the underdevelopment of socialist theory on the relationship between the sexes, they connected this to the gendered nature of power relationships within the male-dominated left. Politics was not just about what you said and did, but how you said and did things. Their experiences of organising autonomously as women fed into a critical consideration of forms of political organisation. Continue reading “feminism, socialism and political organisation: questions for the contemporary left”

sex worker organisation in uganda: an interview

Since 2008, Uganda’s sex workers have been organising to fight for healthcare, safer workplaces, social recognition and protection against systemic police abuse.

This is a group interview with: Macklean Kyomya, 27, a sex worker for more than a decade, who now runs a support network for men and women struggling against discrimination and criminalisation; Namakula Nakato Daisy, the country coordinator for the African Sex Worker Alliance; and Benjamin, a male sex worker  in Kampala. Continue reading “sex worker organisation in uganda: an interview”

defend hackney nurseries! fun day 30th may

From Feminist Fightback

Join us and Friends of Hackney Nurseries on Sunday 30th May, 11am-2pm at London Fields for fun, games and organising to save childcare provision!

At the end of April at least 8 community nurseries in Hackney were informed of immediate cuts in their budget of up to 60%, or about £50,000. This will mean the serious threat of nursery closures, and hardship and distress for parents, workers and children. The Learning Trust and Hackney Council are denying that there is a programme of cuts to nursery provision – so we want to know: Where has the money gone? How can nurseries keep running with such drastic cuts? Why are all the politicians and officers passing the buck and not answering our questions?

Continue reading “defend hackney nurseries! fun day 30th may”

and the struggle continues… women’s liberation 40 years on

Sharon Borthwick reports on the recent Feminist Fightback event in London

In 1970, 560 women came together at Ruskin College, Oxford for the first UK women’s liberation conference. The activist network Feminist Fightback met in London on 2nd May to look at how far we have come 40 years on, inviting all genders to “consider what feminism looks like today, how the struggle continues, and put the battles women fight today in the context of the history of the women’s movement.”

To aid comparisons of the women’s movement then and now the programme included two films: A Woman’s Place (Journeyman Pictures, 1970) and an episode of the BBC4 series on women, Activists (broadcast, March, 2010). Post introductions, the Feminist Fightback meeting continued with screening the 1970 film, which included footage of the Ruskin conference and The International Women’s Day March held in London in 1971. Continue reading “and the struggle continues… women’s liberation 40 years on”

manchester anarcha-fems meet

by Bahar Mustafa

Manchester Anarcha-Feminists and the Anarchist Federation Women’s Caucus collaborated on the weekend of 10th-11th April to present two days of workshops inclusive of all genders and ages. The event took place at the Manchester University Students’ Union, and was a brilliantly organised gathering with a vibrant atmosphere. Activists, students, and parents came from all over the UK to be part of the experience.

However, within the feminist movement it is a saddening truth that there exists a division. Feminists on one side of this rupture offer rather contentious analysis in regards to such themes as pornography, prostitution and trans-gendered self-defined women; regarding any woman engaging in such acts as anti-feminist, and excluding  trans-gendered self-defined women from the movement, on the basis that they do not share the same experiences. This is typical of reactionary and conservative responses to these questions – not to mention detrimental to the feminist movement and the struggle of all people. Continue reading “manchester anarcha-fems meet”

gordon brown’s workhouses for single mothers

by Zoe Smith

“That’s better for them, better for their babies and better for all of us”
Gordon Brown on his proposal to house single mothers in state-run supervised homes


September was an exceptionally rough month for many mothers. They took a further beating at the hands of the state with the Labour Party’s stultified attempts to kick into motion its lumbering electoral machine, in the mad rush to outdo the Conservative Party’s social conservatism. During his mid September speech to the TUC on spending cuts the Prime Minister revealed that New Labour had decided to drop its manifesto pledge to increase paid maternity leave for mothers to one year. In a qualification to this decision Gordon Brown added that this would be counter-balanced by granting fathers the right to take three months of paid paternity leave during the second six months of their child’s life. This was on the condition that the mother returned to work. Following this announcement Brown proceeded to make a pronounced and very hostile attack on teenage mothers during his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference. The scale and seriousness of this attack can be seen as a new departure in the state’s attempt to control female reproduction, and to penalise and control some of society’s most vulnerable women. Continue reading “gordon brown’s workhouses for single mothers”

beyond mousavi: the movement of the iranian masses

by David Broder

The explosion of popular defiance following the seemingly fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad marks a turning point in the evolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


While in the last two years there were strikes on the Tehran bus network and in isolated factories, as well as illegal student protests thousands strong, the post-election demonstrations were by far the greatest challenge to the authority of the Ayatollahs’ regime since it was established in 1979. Continue reading “beyond mousavi: the movement of the iranian masses”