Women's Fightback, Feminism

Semenya: a cruel decision

An abridged version of this appeared in Solidarity505. I started in athletics as a 15 year old middle distance runner in 2009, meaning Caster Semenya was incredibly formative to me, serving as a huge inspiration and becoming one of my heroes. I watched the Berlin World Championships, so famous for Usain Bolt’s world record display, but while I greatly admired the best sprinter of all time, it was Caster Semenya that made me fall in love with athletics. It was recently announced that the IAAF have found evidence that highly elevated levels of testosterone in women is correlated with greater...

1919 - The fight for working women's rights

1918 had ended with British women voting in a general election for the first time ever. But it was only those aged 30 or over and who met a property qualification who could vote. That general election saw the first woman elected, but the successful candidate, Constance Markiewicz (pictured), refused to take her seat in the British Parliament that she and her Sinn Fein colleagues did not recognise as legitimate. Instead, Constance became Minister of Labour in the Dail Eireann, the first female Cabinet minister in Europe. The Labour Party pushed for extension of women’s rights, and in March 1919...

Muslim women, the veil and the Christchurch massacre

Marieme Helie Lucas, an Algerian socialist feminist, has written this open letter: to people of good will, solidarising with victims of the Christchurch massacre; to the New Zealand Prime Minister; and to the management of Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada. In response to massacres perpetrated by extreme-right white supremacists in two mosques in New Zealand on 15 March 2019, several symbolic actions took place that aimed at conveying to Muslims — who were attacked as such, since they were praying in the mosque when it happened – that they could count on their fellow citizens’ solidarity...

US socialist organisation implodes

A crisis which looks terminal is gripping the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the largest would-be Trotskyist organisation in the US. In a letter to ISO members of 15 March, now published at socialistworker.org, the Steering Committee elected at the ISO convention in late February to replace the old leadership describe the convention as their “most painful.” “Much of the convention was devoted to reckoning with the damaging impacts of our past practices and internal political culture. As branches have reported back and opened up these discussions, more examples of a damaging...

Edith Lanchester and "free love"

Edith Lanchester (1871-1966) was a British socialist and feminist, who came to prominence in the late nineteenth century for making a challenge to the institution of marriage. Lanchester came from a prosperous family in Battersea, in south London, but committed herself to the socialist movement. She joined the SDF in 1892, rising to a position on its executive in 1895. Her socialist feminist convictions had led Lanchester to conclude that the wife's vow to obey her husband was oppressive and that she was politically opposed to the institution of marriage. Acting on her convictions, Lanchester...

Women fighting Stalinism

How does a woman who adamantly refused to call herself a feminist and was vehemently “anti- communist”, who was a passionate Roman Catholic and held Pope John Paul II as one her heroes, and later friend, herself become an inspirational hero for socialist feminists? For starters, she does so by being astonishingly courageous; by challenging the crushing Stalinist, anti-working class bureaucracy in her workplace over two long decades; by organising an underground workers’ group, and, in doing so, becoming the subject of constant harassment and risking imprisonment. Anna Walentynowicz was the...

A heroine of Poplar

Minnie Lansbury was one of the rebel Labour councillors of Poplar (East London) who in 1921 forced the Tory¬Liberal coalition government to start central government payments to equalise resources between councils in poor and in well¬off areas. Janine Booth’s biography of Lansbury is rich in detail about her life; working¬class conditions at the time; and much more. It is a solid achievement given the scarcity of material available on Lansbury to work on. Lansbury’s parents were impoverished Jews from Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, and had fled to the East End of London to escape...

RMT elects first woman president

Michelle Rodgers has been elected president of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT), becoming the first woman president in the union’s history. She won a comprehensive victory, with 7,198 votes; her two opponents, Steve Shaw and Jamie Nickles, took 4,598 and 443 votes respectively. Michelle works for Arriva Rail North at Manchester Piccadilly, where she is a local union rep, and has previously served on the union’s National Executive Committee. She is also the secretary of her RMT branch, Manchester South. The national presidential position is the RMT’s most senior...

Issues behind the Glasgow equal pay dispute

Glasgow City Council Labour Group leader Frank McAveety has issued a letter which supposedly puts the record straight about the history of the City Council’s long-running equal pay dispute. In fact, it does no such thing. The letter begins by listing “some spectacular things” achieved by Labour administrations during their 40 years in power in the City Chambers. It does not do so for the sake of accuracy – many Labour Party members will have a less positive assessment of the record of the City Council Labour administrations – but for the purpose of creating a narrative: We, Labour, did a...

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...

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