immigration controls: a weapon to defend exploitation

The last week has seen hunger strikes at Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire in protest at inadequate medical care: after all, this ‘detention centre’, run by private contractor Serco, is in all but name a prison. In this piece, a Chilean woman detained in Yarl’s Wood speaks of how her employer had her sent there after she protested about unpaid wages.


I’ve lived in London for two years, working as a cleaner and factory worker – usually several shifts a day. At first when I was working at Fitness First there was no problem and I got all my wages, but then they changed their cleaning contractor. The new bosses deliberately took on staff without papers. I was told to keep working for three months without pay, and then I was sacked. They threatened to take my case to the Home Office because I had no right to be here. But I said to them that I wasn’t going to walk away and would get my money back. They were surprised because they thought they were big and they thought I was nothing.

Then began the story of working with the union, the Latin American Workers Association and London Coalition Against Poverty. So thanks to my friends and the union, we won this fight and I was paid over £1000 that I was owed. Then I found out that hundreds of people were experiencing exactly the same problem as me. Continue reading “immigration controls: a weapon to defend exploitation”

what the other feminists look like…

An evening of making trouble, sharing ideas and planning ways for women to fight back against the crisis, hosted by Feminist Fightback.

When: Tuesday 30th June, 5pm, and 6.30pm
Where: Paying a visit to Harriet Harman, Southwark Townhall (5pm), followed by film showing (6.30pm) at Studio 96, The Galleria, Pennack Road, SE16 6PW
All genders welcome!
This is a fundraiser for Lambeth Women’s Project

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women, thinks that a ‘feminist’ response to the recession would be to place more women in top city jobs, putting them ‘in charge of the banks’. Meanwhile Harman supports the Welfare Reform Bill, which proposes to introduce US-style ‘workfare’ practices, forcing mothers of young children into minimum wage jobs or risk losing their benefits. Continue reading “what the other feminists look like…”

the struggle for women’s emancipation today

Liz Leicester, chair of Camden UNISON, spoke to our 9th March London forum on the meaning of International Women’s Day:

First of all, as a socialist I would always say that the struggles of women and the self-activity of women is very much a part of the struggle for the self-emancipation of the whole working class, and I’ve always seen it in that context. That’s where we have to place the issues that are called ‘women’s issues’.

A small quote I think is good, which I think The Commune has published on its website, by Francois Chesnais is “Inequalities and oppression do not exist separately from each other. They translate into concrete realities the way in which this mode of production, capitalism, functions.” For me that’s at the centre of this discussion about women’s issues.

There are some very real and concrete things. There is an estimate, for instance, that women internationally do twice as much unpaid work in the home than they do paid work. That is not unimportant. But women in paid work are still dominated by a patriarchal system as well as class domination, even in countries where some progress has been made, such as this one, in reducing women’s dependence on men. Continue reading “the struggle for women’s emancipation today”

revolutionary history: rosa luxemburg issue

Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Political and Literary Writings
Guest Editor: Mike Jones

Mike Jones has edited August Thalheimer and German communism, and is a frequent contributor to the journal Revolutionary History.

Editorial Committee: Ted Crawford, Paul Flewers, Esther Leslie and John Plant

Rosa Luxemburg, perhaps the most remarkable and original figure among German Marxists thinkers and activists, was one of the earliest victims of fascism, murdered in Berlin, in 1919. This volume presents selected political essays, writings previously unavailable in English.

They reveal Luxemburg’s aversion to splits in the Labour movement, particularly in Germany and Russia, and aspects of her thinking about culture, nationalism and women’s rights. Each essay is annotated, introduced and placed in context. Continue reading “revolutionary history: rosa luxemburg issue”

videos of ‘uncaptive minds’ forum on women in the class struggle today

On 9th March The Commune hosted a London forum on the subject of “women in the class struggle today”. The speakers were Liz Leicester (chair, Camden Unison); Sheila Cohen (author, Ramparts of Resistance), Mary Partington (Left Women’s Network) and Clara Osagiede (RMT cleaners’ grade rep). 21 people attended.

Seven videos of the introductory speeches are below. The end of the speeches and the ensuing discussion will appear shortly, and we aim to make such video recordings of our meetings a more regular feature of this website.

Continue reading “videos of ‘uncaptive minds’ forum on women in the class struggle today”

photo-report of protest against welfare reform bill

Today a group of protesters staged a demonstration inside a Government building as part of a Week of Action in opposition to controversial welfare reforms.

Dozens of activists stormed into a Department for Work and Pensions building in Westminster, shouting slogans and saying they were going to occupy the offices.

The protesters, from groups including Feminist Fightback and anti-poverty organisations, were dressed as bankers. They described the Government’s planned legislation as the “welfare abolition Bill” and claimed the measures would virtually abolish welfare for single parents and disabled people.

One of the protesters, Anne-Marie O’Reilly, from Feminist Fightback and London Coalition Against Poverty, said: “Everyone knows that the Government’s welfare Bill was designed by ex-banker David Freud.

“Even if it weren’t for the banks’ track records, the fact that he has recently defected to the Tories should make it clear this Bill needs to be thrown out.  They will throw us out of the building today, but we think it’s time they really throw the bankers and their interests out of Whitehall and stop penalising poor people, disabled people and single mothers.”

Another activist, Alice Robson, said: “The Government is bailing out the banks and giving them bonuses whilst cutting welfare benefits for the poor.  This Bill does not make sense – the Government should be targeting the rich not the poor to pay for their crisis.”

On this website recently we have published three articles looking at changes in the welfare system: Joe Thorne’s overview of the Welfare Reform Bill and this week’s Week of Action, Christine Hulme on Jobcentre privatisation and Chris Grover on unemployment under Brown and the recession.

See below for photos of today’s action. Continue reading “photo-report of protest against welfare reform bill”

meeting for international women’s day

by David Broder

On Friday 6th March a meeting was held at the University of London Union to mark International Women’s Day.

Tamar Katz, a young Israeli woman who was repeatedly imprisoned for refusing to join the Israeli army, spoke alongside Laura Schwartz from Feminist Fightback, the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq (Hekmatist) member Houzan Mahmoud, the Independent journalist Terri Jude, Green Party MEP Jean Lambert and Maria Exall from the Communication Workers’ Union.


Particularly inspiring was the story told by the young Israeli woman who had rejected militarism and the ‘normal’ path of the country’s youths in favour of a principled stance of solidarity with Palestinians, despite repeated imprisonment as well as the criticism she was subject to whenever the question of her age – and thus her refusal to join the IDF – was raised. This speech was warmly received by the audience. Continue reading “meeting for international women’s day”

forum monday 9th march: women in the class struggle today

The next of The Commune’s ‘uncaptive minds‘ forums takes place in London the day after International Women’s Day, and is on the subject of women in the class struggle today.

Women workers have been struck particularly hard by the economic crisis, and are also a significant majority of the low-paid and casual workforce. So what are the ties between gender and class oppression? How can we fight back? What are the lessons of the movements of the past? All are welcome to join the debate.

Speakers include:

Clara Osagiede (RMT cleaners’ grade rep)

Liz Leicester (chair, Camden UNISON)

Sheila Cohen (author, Ramparts of Resistance)

Mary Partington (Left Women’s Network)

The meeting takes place from 6:30pm on Monday 9th March at the Old Red Lion theatre, near Angel tube station (click for map).

14th february conference: gender, race and class

Discussing and organising our fight for women’s liberation – open to all those who want to learn, think and plan for grassroots feminist activism…

Join us for workshops which identify the interconnections between oppressions and our struggles against them. Work together with other feminists to find ways to actually change the material conditions of women’s lives. Workshops include: learning from feminist history/ sex workers’ rights/ challenging domestic violence/ international solidarity/ a woman’s place is in her union?/ reproductive freedoms/ rape and asylum/ community organising/ queer and trans politics/ prison abolition/ self-defence workshop/ feminists and the capitalist crisis/ films, stalls and campaign planning.

Saturday 14 February 10.30am-6.30 pm, School of African and Oriental Studies, Thornhaugh St, Russell Square, London, WC1. Fully accessible venue. This event is free!

For more info see to register email

new pamphlet: the meaning of communism today

We are pleased to announce the publication of our sixth pamphlet, “The meaning of communism today”.

The pamphlet, excerpted in the latest issue of The Commune, features a discussion document produced by supporters of A l’Encontre, l’Emancipation sociale, Carré rouge and A contre-courant looking at what alternative we can pose to the crisis-ridden capitalist system, including a focus on gender oppression, the coming ecological disaster and modern imperialism.

Arguing against the tried-and-failed statist and vanguardist conceptions of Stalinism and social-democracy, the piece puts forward the case for a self-managed society based on participatory democracy and collective decision making.

You can order the pamphlet for £1 + postage by writing to or The Commune, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY.


photo-report of action to defend rmt cleaners’ reps

On the morning of January 8th a series of actions were held in defence of two RMT activists victimised by their employer ISS for standing up for cleaners on the London Underground. Feminist Fightback and CAIC activists and RMT members were prominently involved. Clara Osagiede – RMT cleaners’ grade secretary – faced a disciplinary hearing on charges of “gross misconduct” for allegedly failing to return to work after a meeting, while recently elected local rep Mary Boakye, who has an eye condition caused by an injury picked up at work, was appealing against her dismissal for allegedly sleeping during working hours. In both cases the employers’ clear motivation was to break up the organising centre of the cleaners, who last year staged a strike for a ‘living wage’ of £7.45 an hour.

Photos and comments on the day’s protests below. Continue reading “photo-report of action to defend rmt cleaners’ reps”

last week’s forum on the grunwick strike

Last Monday (24th November) we held an “uncaptive minds” forum on the 1976-77 Grunwick strike, where the film processing labs’ – largely Asian and female – workforce staged an arduous battle for union recognition, finding support from other workers, most notably postal workers who refused to deliver Grunwick’s mail and miners who amassed at the picket lines.

Pete Firmin from Brent Trades Council gave a talk and showed a film before a discussion on the lessons for today.

For a copy of the DVD shown – running time 1 hour 4 minutes, director Chris Thomas, produced by Brent Trades Union Council  – write to Brent TUC, 375 High Road, Willesden, London NW10 2JR. £10.00 including p&p.

thinking through the meaning of communism and socialism in the conditions of today

A document produced by comrades involved in l’Encontre and Carré Rouge (

As men and women members of the nuclei which publish A Contre-Courant, Carré Rouge, and L’Émancipation Sociale, and those associated with the Swiss journal-cum-website A l’Encontre, we have joined forces to organise work on the theory and practice of the actuality, the present-day relevance of communism or socialism (which are synonymous in the strong sense of the term socialism). In addition we have decided to link up with those who have similar aims and propose to undertake joint work or maintain detailed exchanges of opinion with them. The document submitted explains what urges us to undertake this task; it emphasises the considerable difficulties involved; it sketches our first attempt to map the very area involved. Continue reading “thinking through the meaning of communism and socialism in the conditions of today”

pics of pro-choice demo

Today’s Feminist Fightback action at the Department of Health, demanding the extension of reproductive rights, in particular allowing Northern Irish women to access abortions, was very well attended (about 35-40 people) and lively. A few pictures forwarded by other comrades are below.

A full report on the action is currently available here.