Next Organising Meetings:
NORTH: Sunday 2 November, 2-4pm, Cafe Nero, Manchester Piccadilly
LONDON: Sunday 21st December, 4-6pm, The Common House, Unit E,, 5 Pundersons Gardens, E2 9QG. (Nearest tube Bethnal Green). For the first hour we will be holding a discussion on feminist responses to the HPV vaccine in the UK and India. 5-6pm will be general organising.
All self-defining women welcome, this includes trans*women and intersex women.
Please contact us if you need childcare. We can either fund it or arrange for you to bring along any small people to the meeting. Also, if you have any other access issues please get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
After a successful day in court yesterday, the E15 Open House on Carpenter’s Estate remains open until Tuesday 7th October.
Therefore, we are happy to confirm that we will be going ahead and holding this month’s Feminist Fightback Film Club at the Open House. The address is 80-86 Doran Walk (off Wilmer Lea Close), Carpenter’s Estate, E15 2JJ. It is a 5 minute walk from Stratford station.
Below is the statement that read out by Jasmine Stone and Sam Middleton yesterday after Newham Council dropped their legal action against their two week political occupation of a boarded up house on the Carpenter’s Estate.
” We are overwhelmed and grateful for the support and solidarity from both the local and the wider community. Also thank you to Anthony Gold, ITN solicitors and our barrister Lyndsey Johnson. We have decided to leave 80-86 Doran Walk on our own terms by 7th October, as planned. Newham have agreed to this, with no other conditions and have dropped their Interim Possession Order.
We have celebrated a year of the E15 campaign, during which we have tried to engage with Newham Council on a number of occasions and they have refused to listen. As a result, our political occupation was the only option to escalate our demands for social housing, not social cleansing. We have reached our goal of highlighting the issue of decent homes left empty on the state and we have built lasing link with the residents and the community. This has been broadcast to millions of people.
Ultimately this occupation was never about staying indefinitely, but about our demands to Newham Council.These demands remain and they include:
- Repopulating the Carpenter’s Estate with secure council tenancies now
- An immediate end to decanting and evictions of existing residents
- No demolition of the estate
- The management of Carpenters estate by residents and for residents, with no third party or private management involvement
A workshop on workplace organising and anti-capitalist struggle
Saturday 15th November, 2014
The Common House, Unit E, 5 Punderson Gardens. Bethnal Green
10.30 – 4.30pm
What is the connection between day-to-day workplace organising and wider anti-capitalist struggle?
What is our role as ‘revolutionaries’ in our own workplaces?
What kinds of workplace struggles open up possibilities for wider and more fundamental social and political change, and what kinds simply reproduce existing hierarchies and end up containing class struggle?
This discussion event is for anyone involved in, or interested in having an open debate about, our varied experiences of workplace organising. There have been a number of high profile struggles recently: the Tres Cosas campaign by cleaners at the University of London, the Brighton hospitality workers, the Tube strikes organised by RMT, big one-day public sector strikes. But they leave many open questions:
- if the union cannot struggle for different sections of workers e.g those on temporary contracts, even within the same workplace, what good is the union? And what forms of struggle that bring different types of workers together can, or are, emerging in its place?
- what actions, apart from largely symbolic one-day strikes, actually put pressure on the bosses and the state?
- how can our political activity help to build worker’s collective self-organisation?
- how does a particular workplace affect the type of struggle and form of organisation? For example, the University of London (Tres Cosas) cleaners have been helped in their success by a number of factors including things like: they work in a high-profile university campus with a ready supply of left-wing student activists to support them, they have strategic and translation support from the IWGB, and the majority of workers speak Spanish as a first language and share a common cultural/national identity. With these particular circumstances, what can other workers in different situations then learn from their experience?
- if an organisation proclaims victories to recruit members to its organisation, how can we have an honest discussion about what didn’t work and more open and collective reflections on strategy and conclusions?
-and crucially, why is this important? Why do we bother with workplace organising? Obviously it is an integral part of our politics within the left/communist milieu, perhaps for different reasons. But at the very least, the processes and content of our organising efforts should somehow connect to our particular analyses of how capitalism is working and how we move beyond it. But in practice, does it?
This event is an attempt to explore these questions. We think that we urgently need to review our struggles so that we can critically reflect on what worked, what didn’t and why. While individual organisations might have these discussions behind closed doors, we invite people across the revolutionary left with different political analyses and experiences in workers’ organisation to come together to share experiences, critically reflect on our role as militants in our workplaces and crucially, to think about how our decisions connect to our wider vision of political transformation. We hope to start a fruitful exchange that will bring us closer to the question of what (new) forms of organisation are emerging that can bring workers together and build a strong, international working class movement.
As part of the discussion we’ll be hearing from a few different people about their experiences of organising:
Someone from an anarcho-syndicalist organisation will talk about their experiences of organising with precarious workers and organising strikes in FE colleges in London. She also has years of experience of working within more traditional union structures. There will also be someone to talk about organising Brighton hospitality workers.
We will have someone talking about their experiences of organising as precarious teaching assistants at SOAS without the support of the union who refused to back them because they were already in a dispute about the pay of permanent lecturers. We will also have someone talking about organising HPLs in universities.
AngryWorkers and Workers Initiative in Poland will talk about their experiences of organising within the warehouse sector in West London.
We will have someone from the Tres Cosas cleaners campaign.
We will have someone to talk about the recent tube strikes as militant union representatives within the RMT union and about the ‘Tubeworker’ workplace bulletin as members of Workers’ Liberty.
We hope, that by bringing different peoples’ experiences and political perspectives together, we can debate the possibilities and feel encouraged to try different approaches.
Email email@example.com to register.
Take a look at the Facebook event
See you there!
Some suggested reading:
What are the best tactics for feminists to use to challenge anti-choice vigils? A discussion piece by Feminist Fightback
As every feminist knows, the last few years have witnessed a shocking rise in USstyle anti-abortion vigils outside clinics. A number of feminist organisations have been doing excellent work in countering this including Bloomsbury Pro-Choice who have mounted a consistent challenge to the destructive 40 Days for Life campaign in London, Brighton Pro-Choice and other local groups. Feminist Fightback had our own encounter with these anti-abortionists and since then we have been reflecting on and discussing the best strategies to counter the anti-abortion aggression.
Having been alerted that the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants were planning to picket a Marie Stopes clinic in Buckhurst Hill we decided to go and resist them outside the church where they were assembling. We contacted the Marie Stopes clinic in advance to find out their approach to these anti-abortion pickets but did not get a reply. Unfortunately the anti-abortionists were already on their way when we got there; they responded very aggressively, as did the police who appeared to be playing a protective role to the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and threatened to arrest us as soon as we arrived. Thinking on our feet, we decided to try and block the road to prevent them from getting near the clinic. Anti-abortionists exceeded even our own expectations as to the lengths they would go to prevent women from seeking abortions. They used their icon of the Virgin Mary as a battering ram, broke through our line, forced their way past us and head butted one of our allies, drawing blood. We then attempted to limit the damage caused by a large group of anti-abortionists singing hymns, praying into a loud speaker and handing out leaflets full of lies right outside the entrance, by escorting women inside. Eventually some of the clinic staff came out. We asked them what they would like us to do and they said they were not in favour of any protest outside the clinic full stop.
We realise this was a far from ideal situation and resulted from having to act on the spur of the moment. Having reflected upon it, however, we remain uncertain about what would have been the best way to challenge groups like Helpers of Gods Precious Infants. Our encounter with them confirmed for us that their presence outside a clinic is extremely threatening and impossible to ignore. Clearly no one who believes in a woman’s right to choose can simply ignore them and hope they will go away.
A few days later we were contacted by Women’s Grid who had previously advertised our protest informing us that they would not be able to publicise actions in future because a consensus had been reached within the feminist movement that counter protests outside clinics should be avoided at all costs. We have subsequently communicated with staff at BPAS and other Marie Stopes clinics they have confirmed that they are against counter protests and US style escort actions whereby women are safely escorted into clinics by pro-choice supporters.
The purpose of this article is to get a debate going amongst different feminist groups about what is the best strategy to counter the rising tide of aggressive anti-abortion action. We understand clinic staff are concerned to minimise confrontations, but we feel strongly that the action of anti-abortionists say something significant about their control over public space and have material impact on women’s ability to access abortions and while we note the excellent work that groups like Bloomsbury pro-Choice have done in holding alternative demonstrations outside of clinics when they are closed, none of this actually prevents ant-abortionists harassing women. Are there alternative methods we could use to stop them in their tracks? Is direct confrontation always counter-productive in these situations?
We’re genuinely interested in debate and dialogue and thinking through these questions collectively.
We have had a good number and variety of responses on our Facebook page. To keep hold of these threads of the debate and to encourage further debate these are summarised below.
Most said they would not want to go against the wish of the staff inside the clinics for their not to be counter-protests on the days when the clinic is open, but at least one person questioned that “consensus”. One person suggested further investigation into the views of patients on this matter, but another asked whether a survey could be conducted. And the point was made that there really isn’t an “average” user of these clinics and that would complicate the basis for such a survey.
Someone suggested, if we could not protest outside clinics, we could take our protests to the churches where pre-vigil services are being held.
And there was some discussion about the attitude of the Catholic Church to the protests. Could we target the clergy involved in the protests? Are these protestors “fringe” elements who could be marginalised by more sympathetic/pro-choice people within the church (there is a Catholics for Choice group).
There was cautioning against indiscriminate targeting of church people and places and there was some disagreement with disrupting actual services.
If not churches, protests could be held at other public places where the anti-abortionists are.
Talking to the public – e.g. at tube stations – was also suggested.
Holding other protests is good, but what does this do to empower women facing the anti-abortionists outside clinics?
One person suggested escorting women to the clinic from a rendez-vous so they would not have to encounter anti-abortion vigils. This was, it was recognised, a large undertaking, requiring a lot of volunteers. On the other hand it might legitimate the pro-choice presence and allow the clinic users to decide the basis of our presence.
Others felt a direct action approach was the right thing to do. It might involve blocking them before they get to the clinic. Perhaps we can learn from anti-fascist activism on these kinds of tactics.
Other action could be done outside clinics; this might be documenting the vigils in a low key way, any harassment of women entering the clinic and taking pictures of them. Another tactic might be to block them in some way (using a big sheet!), again while they are at clinics.
This discussion evening will now be held a week later – Thursday 13th June. Other details as before: 7-9pm at The Common House, Unit E, 5 Pundersons Gardens E2. If you have any access requirements please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no need to read anything before the meeting, but you might find the following texts of interest:
Kathi Weeks, ‘Working Demands: From Wages for Housework to Basic Income’, chapter 3 of her book The Problem with Work (2011). An argument for basic income which draws on Marxism, feminism and antiwork politics.
Wildcat, ‘Reforming the Welfare State for Saving Capitalism: The ‘Guaranteed Income’ and ew reformist illusions’, Wildcat-Zirkular No. 48/49 (1999). An argument against basic income as demand written as part of a debate on basic income on the German left in the late 1990s. Translated into English here.
Feminist Fightback has been thinking about the gendered effects of the benefit cuts, holding ‘Women at the Cutting Edge’ in 2010, authoring ‘Cuts are a feminist issue’ and being involved in the Save Hackney Nurseries campaign.
We have long wrestled with the dilemma of how to defend services while refusing to be satisfied with the inadequacies of the existing welfare state. In an attempt to think beyond this, we will be hold a discussion on the idea of a basic income and asking what might be the potential benefits of this as a feminist demand.
A basic income is a guaranteed income for all. Unlike the current benefits systems that distinguishes between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ welfare recipients, the basic income is unconditional and breaks the link between income and work. Rather than having to defend flawed institutions, is it now time to make a brave and transformative demand such as this?
Come and join the discussion
7-9pm Thursday 13th June (note one week later than originally advertised), at The Common House, Unite E, 5 Pundersons Gardens, E2 9QG
Over the past few weeks, Feminist Fightback activists have joined members of the North London Solidarity Federation in picketing against workfare.
On 22 March, as part of the Boycott Workfare campiagn’s week of action, we spent a snowy afternoon in Leytonstone picketing Argos. Argos is one of the many companies who use workfare - where those who are in receipt of welfare are forced to work unapaid or will see their benefits cut. Most shoppers were unaware of Argos’s involvement in the scheme – and many were keen to find out more.
On 10 April, the picket was at Home for Haringey, the council housing provider. They claim participation in the scheme is voluntary – yet claimants are sanctioned by the Job Centre for not turning up to workfare placements.
More pickets set to follow – watch this space!
At 3.30pm on 9 March feminist protestors were evicted from their two-day occupation of The Women’s Library. Defiant to the end, women had to be dragged from the soon-to-be-closed building by High Court Bailiffs and Police. Outside they were met with cheers from a one hundred-strong crowd of supporters.
The world-renowned library had been occupied the previous day, International Women’s Day, by a coalition of activists from feminist groups, UK Uncut, Occupy and Disabled People Against the Cuts. This daring and audacious action highlighted the disastrous impact of government spending cuts on women.
The occupation succeeded in extending the opening of ‘Treasures of The Women’s Library: The Long March to Equality’ which ironically was scheduled to close on International Women’s Day. During Friday and Saturday, people of all ages flocked to the library to visit the exhibition, and take part in a programme of feminist discussion and workshops.
Occupier Josie Foreman, a University History Lecturer said: ‘Holding onto the history of women’s struggle for equality becomes even more important in a moment like this, when the government is closing women’s refuges and shutting down children’s centres. The Women’s Library reminds us that these are hard-won gains for which women have fought for centuries. We will not allow them to be taken away from us so easily. Acting in the tradition of the suffragettes, we are willing to take direct action for what we believe in. In this time of savage austerity, we do indeed need ‘Deeds, not Words’.
Feminist Fightback has heard about this and thinks it sounds great!…
Seventy activists from feminist groups, Occupy, UK Uncut, Solidarity Federation and Disabled People Against Cuts have today occupied London’s historic Women’s Library in a daring bid to save it from closure.
In a secret action, a small group of women from the specially-formed Reclaim It! group led the take-over of the library in central London at 1.30pm. Within minutes they were joined by a larger crowd of protestors who had been led to the location by the organisers from two meeting points.
The occupation is part of a growing wave of feminist anger against the government’s austerity regime. Banners hung from the occupied building highlight the effect the cuts are having on women, such as the nearly 30,000 women turned away from refuges last year due to lack of space.
University history lecturer and library user Josie Foreman said: ‘The Women’s Library houses a world-renowned collection of women’s history. Much of its archive documents women’s struggles for equality. At a time when women are bearing the brunt of this government’s savage cuts, cuts which compound the gender inequality of our society, this history is more important than ever. We are here to fight for our right to access that history, which is our history.’
The occupation was planned to mark International Women’s Day, ironically the day The Women’s Library exhibition ‘The Long March to Equality’ was due to end pending the building’s closure.
Local resident and mother Jane Summers said: ‘Women have suffered the brutal blows of this government’s attacks on vulnerable people. Cuts have ripped vital services from the heart of our communities and endangered lives through the reckless closure of women’s refuges and domestic violence services. In occupying The Women’s Library, a treasure trove of women’s history, we stand in the tradition of the suffragettes and Greenham Common protestors in our realisation that at certain moments in history it is ‘deeds, not words’ that matter.’
The Women’s Library is at 25 Old Castle St, London E1 7NT
This action is open to people of all genders and none.
For more information…
Registration now open…
You are invited to “The S Word: A conversation about feminist sex and relationship education”
17th February 2013 11am until 4pm
Whitmore Community Centre, 2-4 Phillipp Street, London N1 5NU
We are a group from a diversity of backgrounds with an interest in the attitudes surrounding Sex and Relationships Education. We feel that a key reason why much SRE for young people is unsatisfactory is that as a society we have problems discussing, and having, sex and relationships in empowering ways. We therefore believe that in order to change attitudes, to question and become more comfortable with our own relationships and sexuality, and in short to build a society which is less squeamish about sex, we need to start with ourselves.
These ideas have grown into planning a platform for educators – in the broadest sense – to meet. We are all potential learners and teachers of SRE throughout our lives. Whether you are a sex-educator, campaigner, parent, carer, teacher, health worker, or are simply interested in the subject, you are welcome to join us.
On Sunday 17th February 2013, we are holding a gathering in the Whitmore Community Centre, near Old Street, London.
An informal opening session will lead to three sets of two parallel workshops. Topics will include ‘Communication and consent’; ‘Where do our sexual values come from/ is our sexuality our own?’; ‘body image and sexuality’; ‘The language of sex’; ‘Speed Debating’; ‘non-heteronormative sex’; and ‘A manifesto for my sexual values’.
Register to attend at http://feministsre.eventbrite.
There will be a creche and the venue is fully wheelchair accessible. Please specify any childcare or other needs you have when registering.
Suggested donations of £5 waged or £3 low/ unwaged will be requested on the door to cover venue hire.
Email email@example.com for more information…
Feminist Fightback Xmas Holiday Social
7pm Wednesday 19th Dec at London Action Resource Centre (LARC), Fieldgate Street, (nearest tube Aldgate East or Whitechapel).
Join us for mince pies, mulled wine, gefilte fish balls, music, dancing and two great short films.
‘Mothers’ Strike’: A film about a hunger strike for housing by single mothers in Poland (2008)
‘People for Tomorrow’: A film by Selma James about reproductive labour and equal pay (1970)
On Sunday 9th Septemeber Feminist Fightback FC hosted eight teams for a five-a-side football tournament ‘Left Foot Forward’ in Victoria Park in East London. A great day was had by all, with 100 players and supporters in attendance. The sun was shining, and everyone clubbed together to play for teams short of players. Prizes were awarded for ‘Up and coming player’, ‘Solidarity award’, ‘Quality Reffing’ and ‘Best Supporters’ among others. The Left Foot Forward 2012 trophy winners were Alliance for Workers Liberty, who fought off No Borders in the final. £115 was raised, and will be donated to Unity Centre Glasgow, http://unitycentreglasgow.org/. Feminist Fightback FC would like to thank all the teams, players and supporters who came, and invite everyone back for ‘Left Foot Forward 2013’!
Feminist Fightback FC is a football team open to all self-defining women of all sporting abilities. Our team members include beginners working through their PE lesson traumas and experienced players who want to improve their skills. We are coached by two members of our collective who combine radical pedagogy with extensive experience of competetive football. We want to challenge women’s increasing alienation from our bodies by using the football pitch as a place to gain physical confidence, work as a team, acquire new skills and laugh a lot.
We meet every Sunday in Victoria Park (by the Approach Road Entrance) 11am-12.30pm. We combine skills training with a 5 aside match and will soon be competing with other teams.
For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mary on 07947101121.
Today Ethel MacDonald, Artistic Director for the Feminist Avengers stated: “The Feminist Avengers call for other feminists to tell George that we think his attitude to rape and the sexual abuse of women stinks and invite him to “go fuck himself” and send a courgette through the post to him at his constituency office. Perhaps with a note “Excuse my sexual etiquette, but go fuck yourself, Galloway”.
Clara Zetkin, Spokesperson for the Feminist Avengers, raged about George Galloway, RESPECT MP when he disrespectively spoke out in support of Saint Julian of Assange, and like many of his supporters, has chosen to present his arguments as a rape apologist!
Ms Zetkin today said “Feminist Avengers are incredulous that during Galloway’s the thirty-minute podcast , scarily named “Good Night with George Galloway” stated: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 percent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape……at least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it“.
He goes on to say ‘Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.’ We are raging that he dismisses women’s experiences so lightly. He splits hairs that the word rape is being misappropriated in the St Julian of Assange case. After all, the claims are about inserting one’s penis into a woman’s vagina when she was asleep without a condom on. It is alleged that St Julian of Assange had consensual sex with the woman plus condom earlier on in the evening; therefore according to Mr Galloway and St Julian’s several supporters, this negates any need for consent or condom wearing in the future. Galloway went on to state that St Julian’s alleged behaviour is ” ‘something which can happen’. As a matter of fact, it precisely is not something that can happen without someone doing it! Mr Galloway accuses that using the word rape in the allegations against St Julian of Assange as ‘not rape, or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning’. Mr Galloway’s evangelical belief in and support for St Julian of Assange, and his demeaning of women’s experiences of unwanted, non-consensual sex is completely bankrupt (sic) and harmful to all women”.
“We call on feminist avengers all over to take action against Galloway, and correct his wrong explanation of rape and sexual assault”.
Rani Lakshmibai , International Secretariat of Situationist Internationale stated “the spectacle of belittling rape and sexual assault of women creates a global language and a global culture that means the violation and abuse of women becomes normal. Women have a human right to consent to have sex. “Insertions” into their bodies, without consent – implicit or explicit – constitute rape. George Galloway the British MP has tried to play with words and in doing so has harmed women. We fully support the Feminist Avengers in their action in saying “fuck you, rape apologist”.
Helen Crawford, Legal Advisor to Feminist Avengers explained “The United Nations recognises that violence against women and girls takes many forms and is widespread throughout the globe. It includes rape, domestic violence, harassment at work, abuse in school, female genital mutilation and sexual violence in armed conflicts. It is predominantly inflicted by men. Men’s violence and abuse is a major barrier against women’s equality and liberation. The right of women and girls to live free of violence from men’s violence and abuse is inalienable and fundamental. Women are not commodities to be bought and sold. It is enshrined in international human rights and humanitarian law. There is a pandemic of violence and rape against women and girls; we only ask that women are not violated and humiliated by men’s violence and abuse. Excusing rape as bad manners harms all women and dismisses the fact that rape constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of women, which is a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is against women’s human rights to describe rape and sexual assault as poor sexual etiquette”
“The direct actions of the Feminist Avengers are based on their anger and their struggle for women’s liberation. The invitation “to fuck yourself” is indeed only an invitation but also a invitation to be more responsible in deciding to redefine rape as poor manners”
Feminist Avengers took action against comedians performing tin the Edinburgh Fringe and Edinburgh Free Fringe seehttp://feministavenger.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/feminist-avengers-take-to-the-fringe-2/Feminist
Avengers are found on Twitter @avengerfeminist the hashtag we use is #feministavengers
Last Month London Met University announced plans to sell off the Women’s Library. If a new home is not found by Dec 2012 the University will run the library as a skeleton service, opening only one day a week.
Most feminists based in London and elsewhere will know what an incredible resource this Library is for activists and researchers alike. It holds one of the most important collections in the world, charting the history of women’s struggles past and present.
The Women’s Library fought for many years to have its own building, which provides an important centre for feminists to research, meet each other, and encounter new ideas. Library staff (with their special knowledge of the collections) play a crucial role in helping feminist researchers, curating exhibitions and collecting contemporary feminist zines and campaign material.
In deciding to sell this collection off, the Vice Chancellor of London Met is showing what little respect he has for women’s history and heritage. He is continuing his and the rest of management’s policy of reducing humanities courses at London Met (last year over 70 courses were closed including history and Caribbean Studies).
London Met is a widening participation university with one of the most working-class and ethnically diverse student bodies in the UK. But perhaps these students do not deserve the vibrant research culture and access to knowledge that the Women’s Library currently offers? We can only guess at the motivations of London Met management…
What you can do:
Staff, feminists and researchers are starting a campaign to ensure that the Women’s Library stays open, keeps its building and retains its staff.
• For more information visit email@example.com where you can sign the petition.
• Please also write to Malcolm Gillies, Vice Chancellor of London Met, expressing your concern: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Write to the campaign telling us what the Women’s Library means to you email@example.com
• Watch this space for next steps in the campaign.
Feminist Fightback was invited to take part in a discussion event hosted by SOAS Student Union (organised by the Women’s Officer) entitled ‘Porn: A tool for liberation or oppression?’
The speakers’ in addition to Fightback were Zak Jane Kier from Feminists Against Censorship (who also worked producing pornography) and Art Mitchells-Urwin, a Masters student at SOAS specialising in pornography from a Gender Studies perspective with specific regional focus on Thailand – investigating the interaction between Thai and ‘western’ porn in terms of deconstructing images of bodies and sexuality. The organisers explained that Object had been invited but failed to send a speaker.
The meeting was absolutely packed, with a whole lecture theatre filled, and surprisingly quickly established a critique of censorship particularly within a morality framework. This is not only in terms of the panel speakers but also in that no-one from the floor (despite extensive contributions) advocated censorship or a simple ‘anti-porn’ position like that of anti-pornography feminists, such as Andrea Dworkin, and groups like Object. Art Mitchells-Urwin interestingly pointed out that porn is already heavily censored – not only in relation to a more general understanding of censorship as being the decision(s) to allow or enable something to be made within the industry but even in the more specific context of state control. He demonstrated his point by an illuminating anecdote about a sex film being banned because it displayed female ejaculation (on the so-called grounds that female ejaculation was not possible and it was obscene to depict sexual urination!).
This not to say that the discussion was framed by a simple ‘pro-porn’ position either. In fact, it was very rich in drawing out the nuances and complexities which surround this issue and really emphasised to me that the ‘pro-verses-anti’ porn debate binary (inherited from the ‘Sex Wars’ of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and beyond) isn’t very helpful in that it plays out a ideaological conflict between two very entrenched crude positions. Often we, as anti-capitalist feminists, are so concerned at arguing ‘against’ the Object line of calling for state censorship, despite it being in fact not very representative of how a lot of people feel and think. The event provided a really positive space in allowing for ideas to be broken down and unravelled. It certainly challenged me.
I just wanted to highlight a couple of key issues / observations from that discussion:
Zak Jane Kier superbly articulated an anti-moralism and libertarian view. She clearly laid out the problems with state censorship and in particular warned of moralism (that often goes in hand with certain types of feminist critiques) which can often lead to an ‘anti-sex’ position. She emphasised that one person’s erotic is another person’s obscene. However, although she did mention working conditions briefly, a lot of the tenure of her contribution was that more women should get involved. What was meant by this was unclear to me and I felt that she conflated the democratisation of porn, in terms of collectives of women making, owning and playing with material, with the porn industry. In particular, it was discussed that having female heads of porn business, directors etc… would improve the situation. The Feminist Fightback speaker did well in unpicking this idea of feminist porn by making the distinction between porn which happens to be made by women and porn which has an explicit feminist agenda. She also did well in placing an anti-capitalist perspective firmly on the table (she even said the words ‘smash capitalism’) in terms of critiquing any multi-million pound industry and employer – employee relationships. How does pornography as a product for consumption (bought by the viewer) and the people appearing in them, as workers (exploited potentially in many ways but most significantly as a waged labourer without control over the means of production) affect our understanding?
2. A mirror to society or secret behind closed doors?
Zak Jane Kier also argued porn was ‘just a reflection of society’ and that its increasing prevalence (along with more women becoming bosses in the industry and developments across the internet) means that people can pick and choose what they like. And, to a certain extent (obviously not the bosses bit) I agree with this line (and might even say this in a debate i.e. you can’t change society by simply changing porn). At another point in the discussion, porn was presented as an alternative to sex education. All of which raised the question in my mind what porn are we talking about? I felt that this (and indeed quite a lot of the whole debate) drifted in to the liberal ground (implying that people as individuals can just negotiate what they like) without critiquing capitalism, socialisation and the fact that we are not all equal individuals able to determine our lives as such. These latter remarks were actually raised by a couple of women in the audience, who presented the observation that society constructs very limited and repressed categories of sexual identities and behaviours – that whilst porn can be an arena to escape from this, it can also be very much a part of this hegemony. It is fairly obvious to me, that porn does not create constructs about sexuality from a vacuum (those ideas already exist), However, to say that society is racist or sexist (or whatever) and therefore much of porn is likewise, feels somewhat of a cop-out in terms of the more interesting discussion regarding how we (as a movement for men and women’s liberation) understand, engage with and navigate around images and constructs of sexuality under capitalism.
3. Thought Police or making the Personal, Political?
The SOAS meeting also firmly and rightfully established the distinction between fantasy and reality. However, it also struck me that whilst clearly what consenting people explore and desire should not be policed (nor can we extrapolate crude linear social conclusions from such activities), to suggest that this activity has no relation to society seems really problematic and contradictory. For example, when porn is accused of being sexist it is argued that this is because society is sexist and when porn is accused of participating in oppressive discourses it is argued that, sexual desire is a private, separate and individualised arena. Just thinking about our own sexualities, how can we match up what feels to be deeply individual sexual desires with our understanding as sex and sexuality as social entities?
I also have concerns about this notion of the individual and sex as a privatised individual act. Of course, it is invariably important to take this position in terms of arguing against the moral policing of our sexualities but if as anti-capitalist feminists we understand the existence of the intersection of a whole host of oppressive cultural and economic structures and that we are all a product of our socialisation (whether we struggle against it or not), then do we say as soon as we enter the bedroom this all changes?
This all, of course, relates to general conceptions around sex and sexuality. Focussing on porn begins to seem somewhat of a strange red-herring – as really what we are talking about is sex and sexuality. Again, whilst people should not be made to feel guilty or judged for certain sexual preferences or activity, can we really say this bares no relation to the socialised world? Is sexuality finite, determined and simply imposed upon us? Are we doomed to act out and/or subvert the tropes of existing categorisations or is there the possibility of a site of struggle to re-configure or liberate our identities and sexualities? How can we create safe non-judgemental but also conscious-raising spaces in which we can explore all of the above?
Moreover, I think that the discussion was really refreshing in terms of it wasn’t that tired censorship verses non-censorship stuff. It really made me think. In particular it raised the question to me ‘what is a Marxist analysis of porn and sexuality’ as opposed to simply a libertarian viewpoint? Or are they the same?
Actually, I am really not sure what I think, just wanted to throw some ideas out there to get others’ feedback.
By a member of the Feminist Fightback collective
(These views are personal and may not be representative of the whole collective).
Feminist Fightback will be hosting AK-Feminismus, a feminist group from Berlin, from 29th March-4th April, following the visit of a group of us to Berlin earlier this year. More info on the group is at the bottom of this email.
While they are here, we are hoping that they can meet lots of other anti-capitalist feminist groups and individuals to allow them to get a bit of an idea of what people in London are working on at the moment and to discuss some points of intersection.
“We are a work group of the naturfreundejugend berlin. since our first meeting 2008 we have discussed theories and political strategies that link feminist and queer issues and struggles with critics of capitalism and related struggles. Starting from Marx, Engels and some of the first marxist feminists like Clara Zetkin, we have taken a closer look to later feminist movements and theories that followed a materialistic approach. For instance we discussed feminist struggles and demands during the 70s in Germany which focused on reproductive labour and ‘housework’ (Hausarbeit). We discussed and questioned their demand for paid housework and their attempts to find other definitions of Marx’s critical terms as productive and unproductive work, reproduction and exportation in order to politicise domination and exploration at home. This included the idea of unavailing emotional and affective labour of women which is usually invisible and unpaid – also when part of wage labour. In this regard we have been talking about utopian ideas of a better organisation of work/labour and
society. It seemed to us that – from a feminist point of view – socialist utopia and ideas on possible future modes of labour and production have been rather blind to gender issues e.g. by using a very narrow notions of exploitation (exclusively in ‘productive’ labour).
Apart from our discussions on labour in order to intersect feminist, queer and anti-capitalist struggles and debates, we also tried to figure out common epistemological and ontological groundings of marxist and feminist theories and analyses of history, capitalist societies, and gender oppression. We read and discussed some newer materialist and post-postmodernist feminist philosophical writing on epistemological and ontological ideas e.g. from Donna Haraway and Karen Baret.
Looking more to the developments and massive political changes on the labour marked and elsewhere since the 70s, we have tried to consider
changing modes of labour and working conditions for women. Especially regarding a growing sector of care work and a tendency of the inclusion of emotional and affective skills of the work force in the post-fordist era.
Since 2010 we wanted to have a wider attention and started thinking about getting more connected to different feminist and anti-capitalist struggles. We started working on and carrying out a militant research about the question of being constantly overloaded. Especially as women due to expectations and necessities to do additional care and affective work in your workspace as well as in your family, social context and relationships. Apart from the very different living and working conditions and experience of women of with different racial or class backgrounds and identities, we thought that this might be a common experience and as so a good common point of departure for a more unified feminist and anti-capitalist struggle against different
kinds of domination deeply interlinked with systems of sex-gender domination and acted out though different ways of exploitation and power over the labour force of others.
At the moment we are planning a poster campaign, that can be seen as an amplification to the former project and has the goal to unveil reproductive and unpaid work. The campaign aims for the recognition and against the denial of invisible labour which is often done by women. The campaign is also planned as a means to fight together and collective rather than individualising the problem. By pointing outexperience of overload is not a singular or personal one, but results from certain structural problems, division of labour and the capitalist mode of production, which cannot be solved individually but only collectively. We also want to point out that people are affected differently by neoliberal invocations – depending on “gender“, “race”, “class” and other structure categories.”
Many of us work in the public sector and took strike action on June and November 30th, or played a role in supporting this action in our communities. This experience threw up many of the above questions, as well as practical issues about the nuts and bolts of workplace organising. We have started to discuss these questions in our collective, and now are keen to work with others who have found themselves facing similar challenges – to share skills, ideas and experiences.
All genders welcome.
The venue is accessible and a volunteer-run creche will be provided. Suggested donation of £4 low/ unwaged, £8 waged, includes lunch. Please register in advance so we know how much lunch to make!
For workshop booklet click here.
Please contact us if you want to come so we have an idea of numbers, and if you have any requirements that we can help with or if you can do a slot in the creche, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A direct challenge to direct and indirect threats of violence against women and an insistence on our safety and freedom in every sphere of life is fundamental to feminism, and so we are proud to join this action to ensure women’s safety wherever they go, and to raise awareness of the strength and solidarity of the women’s movement. We value the feeling of solidarity on a march with many women from different political spheres. We absolutely concur with RtN’s criticism of low rape convictions and poor media representation of women affected by rape, especially in the current political climate where cuts to rape support services are making it more and more difficult for survivors of abuse to access the help they need.
Like X:talk (a sex worker self-organised group that provides English classes for migrant sex workers), Feminist Fightback is absolutely against violence towards women, and in meetings this generally means we have a consensus to continue going on the Reclaim the Night march. As our position on sex work remains controversial in certain London feminist circles, we also agree that it is important to demonstrate this position when at RtN, in conjunction with the ‘red umbrella’ marchers, through chants, banners, and the symbolic red umbrellas.
We also feel that a visible sex worker presence on the march is imperative given the route the march takes through Central London, passing directly through the red light district (and until 2010 past Spearmint Rhino which raised the problem of critical and unsisterly remarks being made by a few members of the march towards the women working at the club).
However, there are a number of questions to be answered regarding RtN and Feminist Fightback. At the moment none of these problems necessarily preclude our involvement with the march, but they make it imperative to continue an open debate on the subject.
It’s worth remembering that in a diverse crowd like Reclaim the Night, most women are supportive of our presence. However this abuse by a minority remains unacceptable and deeply dispiriting. We think the RtN march is important – both in terms of the message that women should walk the streets in safety and as a visible and lively feminist political space – and that is why we continue to attend. And so now we would like the organisers of the march and its supporters to undertake to work with us, and to open a dialogue about how such abuse can be prevented in the future.
On Sat 8th oct the EDL held their ‘angels’ demo (the vomit-inducing name given to their ‘women’s division’) outside Downing Street. I went to the UAF organised counter demo with Feminist Fightback and along with Global Women’s Strike people we made a good feminist presence – the message on our placards was ‘feminists against racism’.
By contrast, the EDL demo was mostly men – maybe 2 or 3 women there. The question of whether their women’s division really exists is an important one – are the EDL managing to mobilise women around reactionary family values, claiming to resopond to their needs as mothers and carers which are ignored by mainstream society? (Paul Mason has reported that the EDL have their own ‘Mums’ Net’). It was also clear from the fascist publicity for the event that the EDL are keen to try to generate a crude and deeply racist vision of women’s oppression under Islam. One EDL woman came to the demo dressed in a full burkah (when our comrade called her a racist this ‘angel’ lunged to punch her in the face but was held back by police).
There was, however, no shortage of male fascists on the demo (hard to get a proper look but perhaps between 100-200). As usual, we were kept in one police pen and the EDL in another – we shouted at each other for a while across a police cordon and then were led in opposite directions, with the EDL continuing their march.
Although the atmosphere on our demo was energetic and supportive, this highly contained and police-controlled form of anti-fascist protest can leave you feeling quite disempowered. Crucial though it is to make sure that the EDL are always met with a counter-demo, it’s essentially a performative and discursive exercise rather than one in which we take control of our own public space. It might have been better if the EDL had been met directly at Westminster Tube, rather than UAF calling on supporters to meet at the other end of Whitehall (this also meant that latecomers to our demo got caught up in a surge of Nazi’s coming out of the tube, leading to encounters as the one I’ve just described). On the other hand, confronting the EDL head-on is no laughing matter and would almost certainly have involved violence. So the debate about how to build a grassroots anti-fascist movement continues and doesn’t get any simpler.
By a member of the feminist fightback collective.
Feminist Fightback hosted a discussion to begin to think through some of the complex issues raised by Slutwalk.
We found the discussion a useful starting point in thinking about questions of race, class and sexuality.
See below for notes of people’s comments at the meeting…
Positively reclaiming our sexuality?
What do we feel about the strategy of slut walk, and for the movement generally?
Reading group and discussion on the politics of Slutwalk.
Wed 1st June 7-9pm, Bishopsgate Institute, London E1 (opposite Liverpool St station).
On 11th June Slutwalk London are inviting women to participate in a march against rape, which stresses that women should be free from fear of sexual violence however they dress or choose to express their sexuality.
This march raises interesting questions and has provoked some important critiques regarding the intersections of race, class and sexuality. The possibility of reclaiming the word slut has been called into question, with some women of colour feminists suggesting that this assumes a (white, middle-class) position of relative power and privilege which marginalises BME women. Another, related, critique is that the right to free sexual expression promoted by the march in fact relates only to a very narrow definition of sexuality.
One particularly important question is how Slutwalk will/ has been presented and re-appropriated in the mainstream media, potentially hegemonising a white middle-class vision of feminism and silencing other forms of women’s struggle in the process.
We think that Slutwalk’s aim to show that ‘whatever we wear and wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no’ is enormously important. Particularly when a senior Tory minister has just stated that rapes are distinguishable, and therefore that some are more serious than others. This view is obviously troubling, not least because it plays into the still wide spread assumption that some women have some level of responsibility for being raped, and that ‘real’ rapes are those involving a high degree of physical force and violence.
We would like, however, to use Slutwalk and the responses it has elicited as an opportunity to engage with the challenges of building an anti-racist feminist movement – one which recognises that women’s identities and experiences are often constructed differently according to race, class and sexuality. This means taking seriously the various critiques that have emerged, taking the time to discuss them and to consider how and/or if an intersectional feminist politics can be made visible on the day of the march.
As a first step we will be meeting to discuss some of the most prominent articles and critiques about Slutwalk (see below for a list of short readings). We will be contacting many other feminist, anti-racist and queer collectives to begin a dialogue on these questions which we hope will continue well after the march.
Everyone (including all genders) is welcome to come along to this initial open discussion on Wednesday 1st June, 7-9pm, Bishopsgate Institute, Bishopsgate E1 (opposite Liverpool Street Station). Please find below some suggested reading to inform the discussion:
On Saturday 23 April between 10am and 1pm supporters of Zara Senkan leafleted customers of , boarding at Victoria Bus Station. They highlighted a serious issue of sex discrimination and victimisation at the company.
Zara worked for the company for five years until the end of 2010 when she was sacked. During that time she was on the receiving end of bullying, sexism and unfair treatment by managers and co-workers. Zara was sacked shortly after she submitted a grievance to the company about some of these issues.
Zara started working for The Original Tour as a driver. In 2006, when she also began working as a controller, her problems began.
Supported by her union, the RMT, Zara is pursuing a case for sex discrimination through an employment tribunal.
All Zara wants is to set the record straight and prove that Original Tour was guilty of condoning and worse, perpetrating, clear sexist and unfair treatment that should have no place in any company. It is especially shocking that these bullying working practices took place at such long-standing, large company that claims to be “family friendly”.
Zara sums it up:
“They wanted me to have a nervous breakdown and leave the job, but they couldn’t break me so they sacked me”.
The Arbout, 100 Shandy Street, 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. Whether you’re a feminist, an activist, a trade unionist, someone affected by the cuts, or involved in fighting the cuts in your college, community or workplace, or just interested in how the landscape of the welfare state is changing, Feminist Figtback invites you to join a day of discussions and networking. We want to put these cuts in a political context, link up, and share ideas and skills as we plan to fight them together. Free creche available. Open to people of all genders For more information or to book a stall at the event or a place in the creche please email email@example.com or call Laura on 07971 842027. Participatory workshops on: What’s going on?
Mapping cuts and campaigns Friends of Hackney Nurseries will be meeting outside the Town Hall, Mare St, E8, Wednesday 21st July 2010 at 6pm, to hand in our petition to the council. We have invited Rita Krishna, member of Cabinet with responsibility for Children and Young People (and member of the board of the Learning Trust), to receive the petition from us before the Full Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. There are still many unanswered questions about the future of our nurseries, especially in the light of proposed cuts to all public services. And the Learning Trust is still not making itself transparent and accountable to the people of Hackney. Everyone who cares about nurseries, and indeed all the children of our borough, is welcome to join us – come and show the council and the Learning Trust that we will not be fobbed off. In April a number of Hackney’s nurseries had serious and immediate cuts forced upon them without any explanation or prior consultation. Nursery workers, parents and community activists have already begun to organise against the cuts, coming together as Friends of Hackney Nurseries. Although people of all genders have contributed, so far the vast majority of those involved have been women. There are good reasons why the struggle for better childcare might be led by women – childcare workers and primary carers are still predominantly female, and women in general are still the ones responsible for ‘picking up the tab’ when it comes to all forms of reproductive labour. Whether we like it or not, it will be us as women who are most adversely affected by these cuts and our campaign for quality affordable childcare will have our interests as women at the centre of it. We want to make sure, however, that saving Hackney’s nurseries doesn’t become just another job for the girls. Attacks on childcare provision are everybody’s problem, and they need to be actively resisted by the entirety of our movement – ‘single’ people as well as parents, men as well as women. These nursery cuts are part of wider attacks on our public services, designed to take back even the small gains fought hard for by working people over the last century. We think that struggles around childcare and other forms of domestic labour have for too long been considered outside the realm of the political. We are calling on the male-dominated Left to take this campaign seriously, and to join us today and in the future – not just to defend existing and unsatisfactory public services but to fight for a better way to organise our society and our lives.
Thanks to vigorous campaigning by Friends of Hackney Nurseries, some of the 13 nurseries who had their commissioning grants arbitrarily removed in April have had most of their money restored. However, several have not, and have had to cut wages, number of childcare places, and are still in danger of closure.
The Arbout, 100 Shandy Street, 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.
Whether you’re a feminist, an activist, a trade unionist, someone affected by the cuts, or involved in fighting the cuts in your college, community or workplace, or just interested in how the landscape of the welfare state is changing, Feminist Figtback invites you to join a day of discussions and networking. We want to put these cuts in a political context, link up, and share ideas and skills as we plan to fight them together.
Free creche available. Open to people of all genders
For more information or to book a stall at the event or a place in the creche please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Laura on 07971 842027.
Participatory workshops on:
What’s going on? Mapping cuts and campaigns
Friends of Hackney Nurseries will be meeting outside the Town Hall, Mare St, E8, Wednesday 21st July 2010 at 6pm, to hand in our petition to the council.
We have invited Rita Krishna, member of Cabinet with responsibility for Children and Young People (and member of the board of the Learning Trust), to receive the petition from us before the Full Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
There are still many unanswered questions about the future of our nurseries, especially in the light of proposed cuts to all public services. And the Learning Trust is still not making itself transparent and accountable to the people of Hackney.
Everyone who cares about nurseries, and indeed all the children of our borough, is welcome to join us – come and show the council and the Learning Trust that we will not be fobbed off.
In April a number of Hackney’s nurseries had serious and immediate cuts forced upon them without any explanation or prior consultation. Nursery workers, parents and community activists have already begun to organise against the cuts, coming together as Friends of Hackney Nurseries. Although people of all genders have contributed, so far the vast majority of those involved have been women. There are good reasons why the struggle for better childcare might be led by women – childcare workers and primary carers are still predominantly female, and women in general are still the ones responsible for ‘picking up the tab’ when it comes to all forms of reproductive labour. Whether we like it or not, it will be us as women who are most adversely affected by these cuts and our campaign for quality affordable childcare will have our interests as women at the centre of it.
We want to make sure, however, that saving Hackney’s nurseries doesn’t become just another job for the girls. Attacks on childcare provision are everybody’s problem, and they need to be actively resisted by the entirety of our movement – ‘single’ people as well as parents, men as well as women. These nursery cuts are part of wider attacks on our public services, designed to take back even the small gains fought hard for by working people over the last century. We think that struggles around childcare and other forms of domestic labour have for too long been considered outside the realm of the political. We are calling on the male-dominated Left to take this campaign seriously, and to join us today and in the future – not just to defend existing and unsatisfactory public services but to fight for a better way to organise our society and our lives.
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…
After previous successful fights against cuts to nurseries, Friends of Hackney Nurseries has re-activated to fight against cuts, and to fight for even more and better childcare provision locally. We are a group of parents, nursery workers, local residents and community activists who believe that quality childcare should be affordable and accessible to all. Childcare is a basic need for families – especially women. We need to provide childcare as a community – not isolated in our own homes. We need accessible, quality nurseries for all.
To make changes and make the public see the way we have been treated and the conditions we are kept in. And to have support from one another and the public.
What kind of support did you receive from the public?
I got lots of calls from people I didn’t know. It was very good.
You were injured and are still suffering pain from when guards assaulted you when you were taken away from the hunger strike and to prison. Do you regret it?
I don’t regret it, but I’m going to be suffering with back problems forever. I didn’t just do it for me. No one just did it for themselves. We did it for all, for everyone in detention.
How does detention affect women in particular?
We are the mothers of our children and we play an important role. Detention affects women a lot: many self harm and things like that. People get really depressed and go mental at times.
Do you think the system is racist?
Well apart from locking us up because of where we come from, you can see it in the way they treat us: calling us names like “monkies” and “yardies” and stuff like that. We face lots of discrimination in there. The food was so bad I didn’t even eat it. The medical assistance isn’t good either. You see it in prison too. They treat British citizens differently from the way they treat us. We get much worse punishments for doing less than when British people do more!
We face racism in a lot of ways: the way they talk to us, they open our mail, even solicitor’s letters, which they’re not supposed to. They tell you you’re not allowed to have things you should be. They just do what they want to do. When we have visits they bring us down half an hour late. The three people over there have been waiting for the person they’re visiting for an hour. You can bet they’re not British nationals.
What would you change?
In prison, we need to be treated equally. In detention centres, they shouldn’t be detaining mothers and children. People suffer so much emotionally. I would close detention down. In prison, everyone should be treated the same, not differently because of nationality or colour.
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 BBC 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.
A great sense of urgency surrounded the Ruskin conference. Many more women than the organisers expected showed up for the event. Whilst women across the class spectrum were enlivened by each other’s speeches and debate men were presiding over a crèche in the wings. Even long dead men honourably remembered by other men with head and shoulder busts in their image were not privy, women having covered them with shawls and scarves.
All aspects of women’s lives were considered in the context of British society in 1970 – Women in prison, trade unions, housework, childrearing, for instances. One woman spoke of the need for “our children to be liberated from us”, implying a suffocating atmosphere presided over family living, women isolated and confined by the mother role. Women questioned whether the so-called “maternal instinct” was a real or imposed thing. They talked of possible alternative family structures where other adults and not the mother alone have childcare responsibilities such as communes. One middle-aged working class woman, wholly unused to speaking before a large audience, grew in confidence as she spoke of her life as a housewife and mother of four children as a life of missed opportunities. Another woman said she would like not to be thought a freak because she had no interest in children whatsoever. Women discussed the thorough injustice of their economic dependence on men, their work as mothers going unacknowledged and unpaid and the political implications of that – reproducing a workforce for capitalism whilst simultaneously being disenfranchised by that system.
Some months later 4,000 women took to the streets of London for the International Women’s Day March with placards and banners demanding these basic rights. They presented their petition in writing to 10 Downing Street. The seriousness of their demands to tackle the inequalities imposed on them by virtue of their biology did not stop these women’s enjoyment of the march. There was a carnival atmosphere. A needlework dummy bound to a crucifix was held aloft by some women while others dance-exercised ironically to Eddie Cantor’s ‘Keep young and beautiful, its your duty to be beautiful’. One woman mocked beauty pageants, her sash reading, ‘Ms Stress’. Clearly the Ruskin conference had been a resounding success, women politicised and adamantly seeking immediate changes to an unjust system.
So how are things looking in 2010?
The sad answer is, not very good at all. In spite of the Equal Pay Act implemented in 1970 and the various adjustments made to it since women are still lagging behind men in financial status. They are far more likely than men to work in part-time employment as they are more usually the primary carers of either children and/or disabled or elderly relatives. Part-time work such as care-work or cleaning is given low status and is extremely poorly paid. The model of ‘superwoman’ is held as the ideal. Women are urged ‘to have it all’ – both the children and the career. This can effectively mean that you either pay – usually another woman – a low wage for childcare, or if lowly paid yourself, childcare will take up a disproportionate amount of your income.
Feminist Fightback are currently involved in a campaign to save Hackney nurseries, “cuts … being handed out in a piecemeal fashion, with no warning to nurseries all over Hackney.” Thus nursery fees go up and living standards go down making rubbish of Labour’s insistence that they were fighting to reduce child poverty. And Britain with a Tory prime minister is sure to make matters far worse, a part of the Tory/Liberal pact being to immediately put into operation Tory’s plans to severely cut funds to all public services so to appease the IMF (America’s chief say-so).
And so to the BBC4 documentary, where the feminist activists concentrated on made all these social conditions notable by not mentioning any of them. Finn Mackay is the founder of the London Feminist Network and Co-founder of the Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution and it was these movements that the documentary wholly centred around. Mackay is described on her blog, “She is a well-practiced public speaker with particular emphasis on violence against women, prostitution and feminism in the UK.” Indeed, she appeared a charismatic leader in the film as with a raised fist she delivered her speech at The London Feminist Network’s Conference to an all women audience, many of whom were in floods of tears.
The interviewer asked woman after woman what her chief concerns were regarding feminism. Cited were just these: male violence against women, prostitution, pornography and sexual objectification. There was much belittling of these women by the programme makers. They were mostly young, middle-class women living at home with their parents. Parents were also interviewed and rather geed along when showing prejudice against their daughter’s activism, one mother saying she could not understand her daughter’s penchant for dressing up while protesting against objectification.
Feminist Fightback rightly cut a huge swathe from this film that concentrated on food preparation for the LFN conference – veganism read as joyless Puritanism by the film-maker, and the viewer impelled to think likewise. Campaigns by LFN include Reclaim The Night, ‘Bin the Bunny’ (referring to the cynical use of the Playboy bunny emblazoned across children’s clothes etc.) One woman spoke of the horrific event that had made her become an activist in the movement: recounting that after her daughter’s friend had been gang raped, the police later made charges against her saying that she had perverted the course of justice, citing mobile phone footage her attackers had filmed. They eventually succeeded in getting the charges dropped but were further shocked to learn that there were no rape crisis centres in the whole of London.
There was some extremely disturbing footage of women from the LFN shouting “shame, shame” at people entering a lap-dancing club. They were shouting this as much at the female employees as at the male audience, creating divisions between those women and themselves.
After the film showings the mostly women crowd present at the Feminist Fightback event came together to discuss the films, make comparisons and consider the feminist movement today. In the lively discussion, personal experiences were used as much as the historical perspectives raised by the films.
Much noted was the absolute absence of considerations surrounding class or indeed any other political analysis in the BBC4 film. Women spoke of their concerns about others considering feminism an outmoded if not dirty word. There was consensus that we should openly and unashamedly say that we are feminists to other women and men. How this consciousness raising is exercised was another problem discussed – not wanting to come across preachy, for instance.
We discussed the issue of objectification so concentrated upon by the women from LFN. Participants articulated the belief that the media perpetuated women’s concern with their bodies by constantly documenting this apparent all consuming concern, anorexia, for instance, being a favourite topic of documentary makers. We discussed society placing such high value on being in a couple. One woman quoted a bride’s speech, “I was nothing till I met you”, “now I am complete”. People expressed concern over feeling that you had to do your best to feign interest in wedding preparations – cooing over the dress for instance, women feeling that they would otherwise endanger friendships, though they are not allowed the space to say, “this is shit”.
Many considered that LFN’s demand to have porn banned by the state was not a progressive argument, and indeed a simplification of matters, particularly demeaning porn being a symptom that needs to be attacked via its root causes and likewise the LFN’s attitude to prostitution; Feminist Fightback are demanding that sex-workers be decriminalised.
There was consensus that the BBC4 programme was horribly malicious and a farcical comparison with the 1970 Journeyman film. And what of women’s own sexuality and their enjoyment of sex, should this not be talked about?
Many other subjects were touched upon at this meeting. In fact all of the grass-root feminist concerns the women from the 1970 Ruskin conference were talking about then are still very much the concern of Feminist Fightback now. It is a terrible shame that the media present body image and objectification issues above all else as grass-roots feminism, when you only need to watch A Woman’s Place to know that that is absolutely not the case. Feminism must be bound with political activism.
by Sharon Borthwick
In 1970 hundreds of women gathered for a free conference at Ruskin College that would launch the Second Wave of feminism. As men provided the childcare, women discussed and debated ideas and experiences, and identified what the aims of the Women’s Liberation Movement as they saw it, should be.
Feminist Fightback invite you to an afternoon of film showings and discussions as we think about how far we have come, 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 Liberation Movement.
Films will include:
Journeyman Picture’s A Woman’s Place (1970)
Excerpts from the BBC’s Women series (2010)
Five women branded as ring leaders have been moved over the last weeks from Yarl’s Wood detention centre to prison, where they are being held without charge. Over fifty women are entering their third week of a hunger strike in protest at the horrendous conditions and degrading treatment they suffer on a daily basis, and the racist immigration controls that have led to their incarceration. The response to this action has been an increase in brutality and victimisation from guards, and a white-washing from government.
Denise is one of the women now being held in Holloway. She escaped from Jamaica with her child after her brother was killed in gang wars and her family received death threats to stop them reporting to the police. Her other brother was deported to Jamaica on 29 January and was murdered there. She was detained for 11 months having been convicted and imprisoned for “racially aggravated assault” after police were called to an argument in a shop. She tried to stop police taking her five year old son from her, was held down and accused of kicking a police man. One of the officers (all white) called her a ‘Black bitch’ to which she responded ‘white bastard’.
Having been identified as a ‘ring leader’ of the current protests Denise was beaten by guards at Yarl’s Wood, held in solitary confinement for days and then removed to HMP Holloway last week.
Come and show your support and solidarity.
Activists from No Borders London, Campaign Against Immigration Controls and Feminist Fightback managed to get past the prison’s security barriers and walk around the barbed-wire fence with banners, shouting solidarity slogans via loudspeakers and making noise with pots and whistles for well over an hour.
The protesters were repeatedly cheered by detainees inside, who waved their hands through half-open windows. Some also displayed hand-written placards summarising their suffering and shouted ‘freedom’ and ‘shame on Serco’, the private security company that runs Yarl’s Wood on behalf of the UK Border Agency.
During the demonstration, protesters spoke to some of the detainees on the phone. One woman, who has been on hunger strike for nine days, said detainees were being “punished” by being offered “disgusting food” that many are refusing to eat. She said they were being treated “very aggressively” by the security guards and not provided with any medical care. The woman, who is originally from Jamaica and has been in detention
for eight months, added that detainees were being subjected to racist abuse. This morning, she said, she was called “a monkey” by one of the guards.
Another woman, who had just stopped her hunger strike as she “couldn’t take it any more”, described the “physical and psychological torture” that detainees suffered. Having spent several months in detention, the woman felt “devastated” being away from her 7-year-old son and British husband.
A third woman, who has been in the UK for 11 years, of which the last 6 months have been in Yarl’s Wood, described the events of February 8th, when Serco security guards tried to break up the hunger strike by force. “We were locked out between 6pm and 2am,” she said. “Some women who tried to climb out of the windows were beaten up really bad. I eventually fainted, as did many others. They’re still treating us aggressively and offering us repugnant food, which many are refusing to eat.”
The protesters also learned that one of the hunger strikers, who had been in isolation for the past 14 days, had just been ‘removed’ from Yarl’s Wood, in what appears to be a strike-busting tactic by the prison
management. She had apparently been dragged by five security guards, handcuffed and taken to Colnbrook immigration prison near Heathrow airport.
One of the demonstrators, who preferred to keep anonymous, said: “As if it weren’t enough to lock up innocent people for such lengthy periods in such horrible conditions, thereby destroying their lives and families, those who dare to protest against their inhumane treatment are punished with even more brutality. Companies like Serco are not only allowed to profit from people’s suffering, they also often get away with this kind of medieval and clearly unlawful acts. What will happen next? The Home Office will claim they take all allegations of mistreatment very seriously and promise another investigation that will never materialise.”
For any further information, please contact email@example.com
PROTEST WEDNESDAY 17th FEBRUARY, 6.30pm-7.30pm
OUTSIDE HOLLOWAY PRISON, Parkhurst Road, London N7 0NU
On Thursday 4th February 84 women started a hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Detention Centre near Bedford, demanding their release.
On Monday 8th December the hunger strikers were locked up by the centre’s guards for 8 hours, without access to water or toilet facilities. Four women were picked out as “ringleaders” and were taken to various prisons. All are now incarcerated in HMP Holloway.
We are calling for the immediate release of the “Yarls Wood 4″ and all the other women still on hunger strike in the centre.
Please come and demonstrate outside HMP Holloway this Wednesday between 6.30-7.30pm. Bring banners and instruments.
CLOSE ALL DETENTION CENTRES! STOP DEPORTATION!
On Tuesday afternoon officers working at Yarl’s Wood – an Immigration Removal Centre run by SERCO – violently broke up the Hunger strike that started on Thursday evening.
* The women were trapped and effectively kettled in a corridor for 8 hours with no food, water or toilet facilities
* Others ended up being trapped outside in the snow for hours without jumpers, shoes or socks
* Many were subjected to verbal assault and racial abuse
* Many suffered serious physical assault –in one known case a woman was left unable to stand and another woman’s finger was almost severed and many collapsed out of exhaustion
* Furthermore all the women involved were (and in most cases still are) denied access to medical treatment
* Ambulance and police were denied access to the centre
In response to this horrific violation of human rights and blatant abuse of power an immediate demonstration was staged from 8am to 8pm on Wednesday 10th and Thursday outside Serco in Holborn. This will culminate with this Fridays previously planned, large scale protest:
***Friday 12th at 2.30pm.*** The demo will take place at Serco’s offices at 18-22 Hand Court (off High Holborn), London, WC1V 6JF. Serco manage Yarls Wood on behalf of UKBA. Please bring banners and instruments.
Please come to show support and solidarity with the women, children and families in Yarl’s Wood and publicly condemn SERCO who are subcontracted by UKBA to run the centre. The office is less than 15 minutes walk from SOAS, off High Holborn. See map for exact location
ALSO – London Detainee Solidarity Network is calling for people to ring Serco Offender Management and the centre manager of Yarls Wood to express support for the hunger strikers and disgust at their treatment by Serco’s guards.
Serco Home Affairs Office – 01344 386300
Yarl’s Wood Duty Manager – 01234 821517
Finally instead of detention of foreign nationals, there are alternatives to detention stated by the *Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). ‘The detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe ‘, Adopted on the 28th January 2010, extracts below.
9.1.1. detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants shall be exceptional and only used after first reviewing all other alternatives and finding that there is no effective alternative;
220.127.116.11. placement in special establishments (open or semi-open);
18.104.22.168. registration and reporting;
22.214.171.124. release on bail/surety;
126.96.36.199. controlled release to individuals, family members, NGOs, religious organisations, or others;
188.8.131.52. handover of travel and other documents, release combined with appointment of a special worker;
Please support these concerns, lobby your MPs, Councilors, MEPs, demanding our immediate release and an end to arbitrary detention.
Messages of support/solidarity to WomenBehindTheWire@ncadc.org.uk
The woman who has recently arrived in the UK from Pakistan to join her husband after marriage…the domestic worker on an Overseas Domestic Visa…the tourist who came for a month but began a relationship and stayed longer……the young woman who has come to study at college in the UK…the Bulgarian woman who worked in the UK during her first six months in the UK but has now fallen ill…the niece who has come to visit family in the UK…
All these women are affected by the no recourse to public funds requirement. What this means is that they are prevented, because of their insecure immigration status, from accessing welfare benefits in the UK. These benefits include housing benefit, child benefit and income support: in a nutshell the benefits that allow someone with no income a degree of financial independence.
Without these benefits, women who have come to join a partner are in a position of economic dependency upon them: particularly acute if they are unable to access the job market due to family commitments, their level of English or a lack of available opportunities. For domestic workers, this (coupled with the condition of their visa whereby they must stay with a named employer) means a high level of economic dependence on their employer. This is an unacceptable position for any woman to be in, denying independence and the freedom to leave a situation they are unhappy in.
For women facing violence in a domestic setting, whether the perpetrator is a partner or employer, the no recourse to public funds requirement forces women to make an incredibly stark choice: continue to stay in the violent situation or face homelessness, destitution and/or exploitation by ‘friends’ and religious organisation offering ‘support’.
Refuges, established to provide a place of safety for survivors of domestic violence, rely on a woman being able to claim housing benefit to cover the cost of their stay. The very principles underpinning the refuge movement are subverted by the immigration restrictions.
Incredibly, women’s organisations have reported cases whereby the police suggested a place in detention for women without recourse to public funds who were facing violence and unable to access a refuge place.
Cuts to public services and to the women’s sector make the situation even more acute. Widespread cuts to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses take away the opportunity for many migrant women to learn English and to meet and share their experiences with others who they trust. In addition, cutting interpretation services in doctor’s surgeries – many surgeries ask migrants who are not confident speaking English to bring a family member with them to interpret- means that women may not be able to disclose their abuse, even when given the opportunity to do so by their doctor or midwife. Cuts to legal aid make it impossible for many women to access the legal support that is necessary to challenge local authority decisions (which are often unlawful). Alongside this, many women’s organisations have had budgets cut to the extent that they are facing closure, including organisations providing specialist services for BME and migrant women.
Under the Domestic Violence rule, women who are on spousal/ civil partner visas, and who can prove their relationship has broken down because of domestic violence, can be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This rule is incredibly restrictive. Firstly, it only applies to one of the groups subject to the no recourse requirement. Secondly, whilst a woman has the legal right to apply for indefinite leave independent of the partner, the application process takes months if not years and she is not eligible for benefits in this period. Thirdly, the evidence required to ‘prove’ that the violence took place is largely dependent on the woman having reported it to the police.
The UK government is highly selective about when it concerns itself with violence against women. Its ‘concern’ about the issue of forced marriage was recently used to justify further restriction on the migration of spouses to join their partners in the UK: predominantly women, and predominantly those from South Asia. In 2008, the government announced its plans to increase the age at which a person could come to join their spouse/ civil partner from 18 to 21. The then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed that this move would help ‘stamp out’ forced marriage, and the physical and sexual violence faced by women in such a marriage.
This ‘concern’ does not however extend to migrant women in the UK who do not have access to public funds. For women in this situation who are facing domestic violence, the ‘choice’ could not be more desperate: continue to face the violence, or risk destitution by leaving, and deportation (for those not on spousal visas). The government chooses not to provide the housing benefit and income support necessary for women in this situation to escape their violent relationships in order to ‘maintain the integrity of the immigration system.’
Where is the integrity here? Our immigration system, and the successive governments who uphold and extend its severity, have neither integrity nor humanity.
Immigration restrictions are not in the interests of any woman. They divide us into citizens/ non-citizens, legal/illegal, wanted/unwanted, relatively safe/ precarious. As feminists, we must fight against these dividing lines, against racism and against borders, for the independence and safety of all women.
Unfortunately Video Basement has been evicted. So our film night THIS THURSDAY is at the School of Oriental and African Studies rom G50, nearest tube Russell Square.
Feminist Fightback Film Night: 8-11pm, Thursday 17th Dec.
Films, discussion, festive food and drink.
Showing: ‘Apartheid is so Gay’ by the Pinky Show, ‘Underground Londoners’, ‘Boy I Am’ and ‘Estrellas de la Linea’
8-11pm Thursday 17th December, @ VHS Video Basement, (ex)-Puss in Boots Strip Club, 11 White Horse Street, W1J 7LL (nearest tube Green Park)
Donations of £2.50 unwaged, £4 waged will go to women’s refuge provision for migrant women currently denied access through the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ legislation.
‘Apartheid is So Gay’ by the Pinky Show
‘Underground Londoners’ A look at cleaners on the Underground organising to resist precarity and immigration controls.
‘Boy I Am’ Follows the stories of female to male transexuals and the responses of the queer movement.
‘Estrellas de la Linea’ Documentary about Guatemala City sex workers who form a football team to highlight their struggle.
Wednesday 18th November 12-2pm
With GMB’s contract being transferred to Initial, who are to further sub-contract it to ICS, Tube cleaners are angry that they are being treated like parcels to be passed around. Multiple subcontracting means sackings, and the driving down of wages. The only solution is to kick out the contractors and bring Tube cleaning back into an integrated, publicly-owned London Underground.
On Wednesday, tube cleaners and supporters, including Feminist Fightback, Campaign Against Immigration Controls and John McDonnell MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP demonstrated outside City Hall to demand that Boris keeps his promise of a living wage for all tube cleaners.
Boris has been in the press this week with the publishing of the study he commissioned into an amnesty. Yet his real approach to migrant labour can be found in how he has dealt with the tube cleaners’ campaign: promise a living wage, fail to deliver and preside over cleaning contractors who targeted union reps with immigration checks to break the RMT’s organisation. His idea of an amnesty would deny even those who met its hurdles access to the public services their taxes pay for, and would further delegitimise the thousands who wouldn’t meet its strict criteria.
Feminist Fightback is proud to stand by tube cleaners as they demand a living wage for all. It’s time Boris coughs up, brings the cleaners in house and starts talking about regularisation for all migrant workers.
19 JUNE 2009. - After being unable to speak to an Immigration Officer, Juliette Umoru, Lorraine and more than 40 women detained in the Families Section in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre have decided to maintain the hunger strike until their demands are met.
Today is the 5th day of the hunger strike but the prisoners have not heard any news from the Immigration Officers.
According to Juliette Umoru and Lorraine they only want to sort out their demands. The prisoners urge:
1) Relocate a 30 year old woman with epilepsy. She is not receiving medical attention and suffers from convulsions constantly. She is lying on the floor most of the time. The other inmates don’t help her as they do not want to make a fatal mistake.
2) Resolve the situation of a 5 months pregnant woman, who was arrested two months ago and who is extremely sick. She stays in bed all day and does not receive medical attention.
3) Resolve the situation of almost 20 children (between 5 months and 2 years old). They are with their mothers and able to play with other kids, but they are showing clear signs of tension, pressure, distress and anxiety. Some women have been detained for more than two months and the children can’t understand the situation.
4) Talk to the Immigration Officer, Sarah (no surname supplied), who must listen these requests. (Sarah’s name was suggested by the Serco’s manager).
5) Adequate access to health care, quality food and real privacy.
6) Restore the communications between Juliette Umoru and her husband Steve, who is not allowed to talk to her.
Mr Umoru took part in the demonstration last Wednesday in Yarls Wood. Guards took away all the protesters and pulled the men away from the women. Juliette’s husband Steve was injured and bleeding.
According to Juliette and Lorraine during the protests about 40 guards confronted the men involved. One of them was Juliette’s husband, who was injured in the struggle. Also, Juliette’s child fell from her back and an officer stepped on the child. “I was screaming and ask him to see what he was doing, but he did not listened and looked the other way.”
Although the hunger strike now reaches five days, the staff of Yarls Wood and the Home Office have shown total indifference to the demands. “They do not care at all what happen to us. It doesn’t bother them if our children are suffering or having problems, they don’t mind if a women are sick and convulsing,” says Lorraine.
There are between 20 and 40 women waiting in this section (Families Section); every day some of them are deported usually without even knowing the Home Office answer to their appeals.
Fast-track asylum decisions are against their rights. “The Home Office – they say – has the last word and doesn’t respect the law or basic procedures”.
The Dove Section
Something similar is happening at Dove Section in Yarls Wood. For two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 100 women detained staged a hunger strike to protest the way they are being deported to their countries of residence. Some of them are deported the day following their arrest, without even being allowed to get a lawyer, inform their family and friends of their status or even just keep their belongings.
Women arrested are from China, Pakistan, India, Latin America, India, China and other countries. Every day a minimum of six women are deported, wearing the same clothes they arrived in because they were not allowed to get their own clothes. In addition, many of them did not have time to hear the answer to their appeal. Many of them don’t speak English and are unable to implement their rights.
It is reported that a woman tried to commit suicide. She cut her veins of both hands but a guard stopped her and took her to the hospital. This is something that is happening on a daily basis. Depression, anxiety, fear, anxiety, uncertainty … “It is a psychological torture. We are conscious we have nothing to lose. They bring the TV to show all the comforts we have, but they do not mind that we have no rights, even to know how our cases are developing.”
According to them, their appeals are not being studied in a reasonable length of time and many are deported without having a response from the Home Office. Inmates also complain that the food they receive is inadequate.
Obviously Home Office and Yarl’s Wood are violating the basic rights of the prisoners.
Mónica del Pilar Uribe M.
Take action to support Yarl’s Wood detainees
The march followed a week of action since the cuts were announced on 5 June, including an unofficial walkout on 8 June, a lobby of the principal on 9 June (with staff joined by 50 students who pushed past security after being denied entry for having the wrong pass), protests at the college’s awards ceremony and joint UCU and Unison meetings on 12 June proposing a vote of no confidence in newly-appointed Principal Michael Farley. After the meetings, ESOL learners marched with their teachers, other college staff and supporters from the college’s adult education site at Arbour Square to a rally outside the 14-19 site at Poplar. Students and staff are angry and worried about the future, but there was a sense of hope as this anger was channelled into action to protect jobs and courses, and a real feeling of solidarity as students, staff and representatives of other unions addressed those assembled at Poplar.
The document Michael Farley circulated to college staff on Friday 5 June laid outproposed cuts of £2 million, which will see 50% of all ESOL courses offered by Tower Hamlets College cut from September. The document, ironically titled ‘Securing the Future’ detailed the loss of over 1,500 ESOL places alongside 60 job losses. There is now a one month ‘consultation period’ on the document, with staff being told on 6th July if they are at risk of ‘dismissal’ (the language used in the document). Those who are going to be dismissed will be told on 10th July, just before the end of the college term. Teaching staff, support staff and learning centre staff will all be affected. Staff have been consoled with the fact that new posts are being created, but unsurprisingly these are not teaching posts and the majority are business positions.
The ESOL classes most affected by the cuts will be at entry levels, those in the college’s community outreach centres, those not expressly for work. They therefore affect the most vulnerable and historically excluded students, and will affect the wider community as well as current and potential learners. The attack is gendered as well as racist– the vast majority of those attending courses are women. Some are recently arrived in the country, others have been here many years but never had the opportunity to attend a course before. Reasons for this include the incredible lack of ESOL provision in the decades prior to this one, time constraints because of their long hours of labour (particularly unpaid labour in the home), needing to travel outside their local area, and the fear of entering a classroom after negative experience or no prior experience of formal learning. Community-based provision is essential in helping to break down some of these barriers.
The 12 June demonstration itself was a testament to the role that ESOL has played in the lives of the (overwhelmingly female) student protesters. There were women leading chants on megaphones, women carrying placards with their own powerful slogans, and women speaking eloquently and emphatically to the national press about what ESOL means to them. Key messages were the need for English to allow them to support their children’s learning, so they can be a part of their communities and (contrary to the views many hold of these learners) so they can work.
These women have developed not only language skills, but increased confidence, self-esteem and above all a critical engagement with the world around them. And it is this which underlies this fight. The fight is for jobs, for student places, but also for the principle of education itself.
For more information on the struggle, go to http://defendjobsandeducation.posterous.com or see http://www.uculeft.devisland.net/tower-hamlets-college-dispute.html
Students and allies at the University of London’s School of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have occupied the university to protest against managers’ attacks on migrant workers, when nine cleaners from the university were taken into detention after a dawn raid by immigration police on Friday. Five have already been deported and the two remaining are in Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
We see this raid as indicative of a current political climate, which sees not only corporatisation of universities but the extension of surveillance and border processing to its institutions, affecting both staff and students. We need to form a national strategy uniting workers, staff, students and the wider community against racist immigration controls and erosion of workers rights.
***SUs contact your UNISON branch and speak to your cleaners. Find out which company they are contracted to, and identify individuals at risk. Contact us to receive translated booklets to help your cleaners prepare, and give them emergency contacts.
***As a long term more sustainable measure, campaign to unionise workers and bring them in house for equal protection of university staff.
***Take action against ISS (the company our cleaners are contracted to) and the Home Office.
***Follow us on http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com. Join our occupation, send messages of support, sign our online petition and keep watch for upcoming demonstrations.
The cleaners won the London Living Wage and trade union representation after a successful “Justice for Cleaners” campaign. Activists believe the raid is managers’ “revenge” for the campaign.
John McDonnell MP said: “As living wage campaigns are building in strength, we are increasingly seeing the use of immigration statuses to attack workers fighting against poverty wages and break trade union
Immigration officers were called in by cleaning contractor ISS, even though it has employed many of the cleaners for years. Cleaning staff were told to attend an ‘emergency staff meeting’ at 6.30am on Friday (June 12); a false pretext to lure the cleaners into a closed space from which the immigration officers in full riot gear were hiding to interrogate and arrest them, before escorting them to the detention
centre. They were allowed no legal or trade union representation, or even a translator (many are native Spanish speakers).
Five of the SOAS cleaners have already been deported, and the others could face deportation within days. One has had a suspected heart attack and was denied access to medical assistance and even water. One was over 6 months pregnant. Many have families who have no idea of their whereabouts.
The management of SOAS, a university that prides itself on its global outlooks and left wing politics were complicit in the immigration raid by enabling the officers to hide in the meeting room beforehand and giving no warning to them. Cleaning contractor ISS used the same tactics against tube cleaners that went on strike with the result that key activists were deported.
Ken Loach says “Recent action by Unison to secure better wages and conditions at SOAS was good news. Now we wonder if the SOAS cleaners are being targeted because they dared to organise as trade unionists.”
Watch this space for news of demonstrations and other actions!
At the end of May, the London Mayor increased the London Living Wage to £7.60 an hour. Tubecleaners know they won’t see this increase without a fight. Despite the Mayor’s commitments to a living wage for cleaners on the underground last summer, it took months for the increase to kick in, and some contractors are still refusing to pay even this.
The Tubecleaners’ struggle highlights the way that gender and class intersect to heighten oppression – cleaning is undervalued because it is seen as women’s work; the majority of cleaners are migrant workers. We need to stand with the cleaners to demand an end to sexist, racist and capitalist exploitation.
Join the RMT picket of City Hall to call for this living wage for all tube cleaners, as well as for free travel to work / sick pay / decent pensions / 28 days’ annual leave / an end to third party sackings.
Wednesday 19 June 9.30am outside City Hall to coincide with Mayor’s Question Time (on the south of the river between Tower Bridge and London Bridge) – http://www.london.gov.uk/gla/locationmap.jsp
Bring banners, placards and noisemakers!
The demo has been postponed from 1 June but if you still have time on Monday 1 June, show solidarity with the people of Niger Delta. Many tubecleaners are from Nigeria, where multinational interests in natural resources have devastating consequences for communities….
THE NIGER DELTA SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN IS ORGANISING A PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION IN LONDON AGAINST THE MASSACRES IN THE NIGER DELTA BY THE NIGERIAN ARMY
The people of the Niger Delta under the umbrella of the Niger Delta Solidarity campaign will be holding a public demonstration in London to protest against the invasion and bombing of several Niger Delta
communities by the Nigerian Military. These atrocious acts of brutality have led to an estimated death toll of over 1000 people and more than 20,0000 displaced people. Several towns and villages have been
completely razed and many others are under occupation by the military. These military attacks are still continuing today.
What: 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 www.lambethwomen.wordpress.com
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.
Harriet Harman likes to talk up her feminist credentials, but what kind of feminist only looks out for the interests of rich women during times of economic crisis? In fact, Harman has a long track record of selling out the majority of women she claims to represent – most recently playing a key role in blocking a Bill to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland. If this is how the Minister for Women is going to act on our behalf, then we can do without her!
Fortunately, Harriet Harman’s feminism isn’t the only kind on offer. Many women in London are organising to resist the iniquities of capitalism – from the parents occupying Lewisham Bridge Primary School to protest against its privatisation; to hostel residents demanding decent housing in Hackney; to the Visteon workers who occupied their factory and finally won their redundancy.
Feminist Fightback has also been organising grass roots resistance to some of Harman’s biggest sell-outs during her time as Minister for Women – occupying the Department for Work and Pensions in protest against the Welfare Reform Bill, and taking direct action in solidarity with Northern Irish women who continue to be denied the right to control their own bodies.
Feminist Fightback invites you to join us outside Southwark Town Hall to show Harriet Harman that women have been fighting back in ways very different to those she proposes. We’ll be ‘decorating’ the Town Hall, sending messages to Ms Harman in a variety of ‘creative’ ways, and inviting our Minister for Women to come out and take a look!
This will be followed by a film showing introducing a number of women-led struggles taking place at the moment. We want this to be an opportunity to find out what’s going on in London; to make links with other women’s groups; and to find inspiration for how we can act collectively to take control of our workplaces, our communities and our lives.
Parents are occupying the roof of this primary school threatened with closure, in order for the building to be demolished and replaced with a privately run mega-school accomodating 3-16 year olds. The decision to close Lewisham Bridge was made some time ago without consultation with parents who today expressed their anger at that the decision to give up on Lewisham Bridge was made at a meeting they were unaware of, yet their lack of attendance has been used as justification for the decision – under the assertion that they don’t care. Parents and teachers took a stand today to show that they do care and are not willing to see their children’s education jeopardised in the interests of profit.
Parents on the roof are not only concerned that their children will have to travel a long way but are worried about the suitability of the building, which lacks basic facilities like a proper playground, that their children will be learning in for 18 months (at least). If this weren’t enough, the cost of housing children in the temporary building is estimated to be £900 a day
The protestors are determined and are not getting down the until the children are brought back to their school. There has been regular meetings for the campaign.
Text of leaflet with full background here.
March on Saturday 9 May to say “Hands off Lewisham Bridge School”
Assemble in Cornmill Gardens, Elmira Street (opposite the school) at 12 midday
March to a rally at the Clock Tower, Lewisham High Street, from 12.30
Bring banners and balloons, families and friends.To find out more: 0208 314 7847 firstname.lastname@example.org