In the opening plenary of Workers’ Liberty’s annual summerschool ‘Ideas for Freedom’ 2013 Janine Booth described fighting oppression as one of Marxism’s “big ideas” and the battle for liberation was key to many of the weekend’s sessions. There were four sessions exploring the relationship between Marxism and the struggle for women’s liberation – continuing Workers’ Liberty’s commitment to developing our ideas about how to understand and fight women’s oppression.
Ideas for Freedom and liberation
We engaged with, and critiqued, key feminist writers and diverse viewpoints. Cath Fletcher (Workers’ Liberty Sheffield and UCU activist) led a workshop that examined Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch: Women, the body and primitive accumulation in which Federici aims to rethink Marx’s analysis of the beginnings of capitalism from a feminist viewpoint. Another, led by Kate Harris (Workers’ Liberty North East London) explored the impact of Judith Butler’s ideas on feminist activism, asking how her ideas can inform our engagement with the recent feminist revival and how this sits alongside advocating more radical solutions to women’s and LGBTQ oppression.
We learned about feminist and left activism for women’s rights internationally in a workshop with Camila Bassi (UCU activist and Sheffield Workers’ Liberty) exploring the global picture of sexual violence, and in particular the debates on the Indian left after the Delhi protests following a gang rape in the city in December 2012. Click here to hear a recording of Camila’s speech.
We also held a panel discussion with RMT activist Becky Crocker; CWU activist and TUC LGBT committee chair, Maria Exall; and NUJ organiser, Jenny Lennox on how challenging sexism within the labour movement and left is key, as the fight for women’s rights must be central to the struggle to transform and democratise our movement.
The sessions at Ideas for Freedom built on the successful series of meetings we organised around the country on Marxism and feminism in spring this year, exploring the role Marxist ideas have played in past women’s movements and the possibilities of renewing that link today.
Going forward from Ideas for Freedom we’re continuing to renew our ideas and discuss with others in meetings and reading groups. And we’re taking those ideas into activity, in particular working with others to think about how we can challenge sexism in the labour movement. We’ll also be continuing to publish our bi-monthly feminist paper, Women’s Fightback, and blog as spaces for discussion and debate and welcome contributions from everyone.
A full report of Ideas for Freedom 2013 is available here.