From Felicity Dowling:
"Women Against the Cuts Merseyside"
No revolutionary can consider the tasks of the 21st century without standing with the women; this is the only revolutionary standpoint.
“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”
In India women and men rose in their hundreds of thousands to protest the terrible rape case, in Pakistan and Bangladesh Textile workers reacted angrily to the deaths of their workmates in avoidable fires, in China working women play a huge role in the workforce and in Labour disputes, in Ireland more than ten thousand marched in commemoration of Savita Halappanavar who died miscarrying a foetus which should have been aborted to save Savita’s life. In Russia, the campaign around unlikely but deeply political heroines, Pussy Riot continues to reverberate.
In Africa the women working in the farms are striking. The women of the minefields of South Africa marched just days after the slaughter of the men, and kept the flame alive. The women of the townships forge new ways of struggle as the service users.
Ninety eight per cent of Roman Catholic women in the UK ignore the church and use birth control.
The old order changes.
Yet in the background deep structural changes in women’s lives are being engineered by the ruling class. The current assault that we (in the UK) are most aware of is the onslaught on women in Europe including the UK, through the destruction of the welfare state, from the attacks of “austerity”.
Seventy per cent of the UK cuts affect women primarily. A friend tells me that the Citizens Advice reckon that older women are those most likely to be referred to food banks, to have no other resources at all.
These societal changes will have repercussions on women’s lives as they pick up the burden of social care; once their traditional role. As 3 out of 4 old people’s homes in Spain are closed the women of the families will be picking up the pieces. In Greece unemployed single mothers get €80 per month to feed their children, yet their cost of living is close to that in the UK.
These changes to women’s living standards and conditions are accompanied by deep, thorough and pervasive propaganda; media conditioning to split the class and to set neighbour against neighbour. The traditional solidarity of working class areas is slow to re-form (though regenerate it must if we are not to descend into some kind of Dickensian slum life).
The deep propaganda from the media is stressing again and again the differences between boys and girls. Never in the 40+ years I have been buying toys for children has the gender divide been so blatant. Lego have even produced a “girls” Lego brand. In Student Unions there is sexism we thought had been eradicated in the 1970s. “Equalities” officers are given little resources and less respect, but “rape” themed parties are tolerated. Anti-women talk is rife on the net and in printed media. Women writers report onslaughts of sexist abuse when they publish online. The extent of pornography is reported as a problem for some youngsters trying to form real relationships.
Further disturbing, power abusing, relationships such as the Saville case in Britain, the grooming cases where vulnerable young girls in care were abused, and the abuse in the eighties in children’s homes highlight the pervasive and corrosive effect of the sexist and patriarchal structures of our society.
Figures for the number of women who experience sexual or domestic violence (http://onebillionrising.org) should shock every person alive, yet it is not regarded as serious by the media, the ruling politicians the judiciary or the police.
Deeper still in the morass of capitalism is the destructive attitude to children. While women bear the brunt of cuts, those who suffer most and will suffer throughout their lives from the cuts are, and will be, the children of the poor as the effects of early childhood poverty reverberate throughout their lives. The police in Glasgow are reported to be sending shoplifters to food banks rather than prosecute them (http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/police-refer-starving-shoplifters-to-charity-food-banks-103770n.19092582 . those in London sending kids to food banks
This in 21st century Britain.
Yet the assault in Europe is not the first. Women have suffered similarly in Africa and Asia when the IMF, the world bank or the EU have imposed “restructuring” on the economy. Zimbawe had the best primary education in Africa, the best health service and qualified Social workers. Many of these professionals are now employed aboard and the country is bereft as the services are cut.
Women die in child birth in terrible numbers and virtually every death is preventable with modern medicine.( A British woman had a bad time giving birth and the incredulous husband said “It can’t be that bad, women in Africa don’t have this care, what happens there?”, “They die”, he was told). Chile ,Sri Lanka, country after country, have experienced re-structuring. Re-structuring, I would argue, is fundamentally an attack on women and families, taking into the hands of private companies all that the state had built to protect the people in the aftermath of liberation struggles and world war two, and forcing the responsibility for ‘unprofitable’ care back onto women.
A pornography of poverty exists where we are told that a child dies of poverty every 3 minutes, and we are shown pictures to prove it. The subtext is that you, human, poor human of the working classes and peasantry, cannot protect your young, you are powerless in this the most basic duty of an adult animal. When asked to defend the use of drones, which we know kill children, the US spokesperson says “Yes, well, it kills less children than carpet bombing” Again the killing of children acts to discipline and debilitate the power of adults.
Some argue that the attack on women can be dated from the 1970s when birth rates in Europe began to fall as contraception gave women choice and they chose not to have children if society would not help with the social tasks. In Italy the birth rate plummeted. Women no longer provided the next generation as fodder for the factories and rates of profit began to fall.
“Women hold up half the sky” as Mao famously said. Today women are both the butt of the attacks from capitalism and the blood and bone of the new working class in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our enemies attack women ruthlessly in many ways, yet unless those women rally to the cause of revolution there can be no change. Women and men are either part of the solution or part of the problem. This must be an even bigger feature of revolutionary theory than it was in the time of Eleanor Marx and of Rosa Luxemburg, of the bread and roses strike or the strikes of the match women, of the Ford workers struggle for equal pay or of Grunwicks.
The SWP are not the only left group to be blind to the role women are playing, and must play, in any successful struggle to defend conditions and to change the world. Britain’s largest left group, the SWP, has fallen into a morass of its own making, at least in part, because they did not consider the issue of women’s rights and struggles to be at the core of socialist thought and agitation. There is no happiness to be had from this. The SWP have the largest youth membership and won some of the best of the students who came into struggle after the imposition of fees for higher education in the UK. We can only wish well those who want to struggle to reform the party and keep its cohort of young militants together, and offer to work with those who find such a task impossible.
There is a place to move the world. You find it when you stand with the women.