Marxism and women's liberation

The split in SDS

Across the world large and radical student movements came into prominence in the 1960s, fighting on their campus and against university administrators but raising wider political questions: opposition to the Vietnam War, opposition to the police, and opposition to capitalism. Their politics were often muddled and contradictory. In America, students organised themselves on a national level into Students for a Democratic Society. This was a serious organisation, which had 30,000 supporters by the time of its collapse, and along with the black civil rights movement became a feared bogeyman for...

The socialist roots of International Women's Day

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the relatively-young capitalist system had thrown millions of women in industrially-developing countries into factories, domestic service and other work. Many occupations were gender segregated, and “women’s work” – such as textiles – was often in the most appalling sweatshops, with low pay, terrible safety standards, and long hours. But at least workers were together, rather than isolated in the home, so they were able to fight back. Women workers, both unionised and not, organised industrial disputes to win better conditions. Although women had...

Introducing: social reproduction theory

One of the key texts of early social reproduction theory was Lise Vogel’s Marxism and the Oppression of Women, published in 1983. Vogel’s aim in the book was to criticise the ‘dual systems theory’ that emerged from the 1970s, which saw (a) Marxism as an explanation for class exploitation, and (b) patriarchy as an explanation for women’s oppression: two linked but fundamentally separate systems. Some, like Hartmann, explicitly stated that Marxism was ‘sex-blind’, which necessitated a 'specifically feminist analysis': of patriarchy. Some socialist-feminists went further and suggested how the two...

Support trans people’s rights!

The AWL has been discussing the theory and politics of transgender identity and rights. This is the policy we have passed; we are continuing our discussion. 1. We support transgender rights and express our solidarity with trans people. We oppose prejudice, hostility and discrimination against trans people, and advocate support and compassion towards them. 2. We accept people in the gender they identify as (including non-binary identities). 3. We reject the assertion that individuals’ genders are defined by or are bound to the genders to which they were assigned at birth, or to their past or...

A split in Iraqi socialist group

Nadia Mahmood of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq spoke to Martin Thomas about a split within her organisation. Nadia: The resignation of our comrades Muayad Ahmed and Yanar Mohammad was announced after the central committee’s decision to take away Falah Alwan’s membership of the party. MT: There must have been some political issues behind it, like the referendum? Nadia: We always have different political views in our party. We always take decisions based on votes. That is basic. As regards the referendum, we had our differences but we set them out. So it wasn’t an issue. And the referendum...

Capitalism, socialism, and women

First section of chapter 2 of "The Case for Socialist Feminism" Women have been oppressed for thousands of years. Possibly they resisted the beginnings of this oppression with violence. For sure individual women have always kicked back and stood up for themselves. But the programme of women's liberation dates from capitalist society. Mary Aspell put it like this in 1706, linking women's liberation to the democratic manifesto of the bourgeois revolution: "Is it not partial in men in the last degree to contend for and practise that arbitrary dominion in their families which they abhor and...

Stop the "anti-prostitute" vigilantes! (1994)

LEAVE ASIDE for the moment the question of whether or not they should do such a thing. What hap- pens when you set a gang of men - any men - to roam the streets as vigilantes, harassing, bullying, and intimidating prostitute women? They will soon be harassing, bullying, and intimidating women who are not prostitutes - women who by their gait, clothes, make-up, or behaviour, or where they happen to be on a street or in a neighbourhood, look to the gang of men "like prostitutes". Already here we have crossed the line from facts — women known for certain to be prostitutes — to the judgement of...

From radical feminism to lesbian chic

Over the last decade, much has changed in the political culture of the 'lesbian community'. Ten years ago, the dominant voices were those of 'radical feminists'. Click here to download PDF

Marxist ideas to turn the tide: fighting for liberation

The opening plenary of Ideas for Freedom 2013 explored key "Marxist ideas to turn the tide". Unite activist Elaine Jones discussed the idea of a workers' government, Unison shop steward Ed Whitby explained the meaning of "transitional demands" such as the call for the expropriation of the banks, and Greek revolutionary Theodora Polenta shared recent experiences of struggle and workers' control in Greece. RMT Executive and TUC Disabled Workers' Committee member Janine Booth argued for class-struggle liberation politics - on race, gender, sexuality, and disability - to be at the heart of the...

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