Sunday, 31 March 2013

At Marxism 2013 - Contributions

I attended workshops on women's and queer liberation at Marxism 2013. Both workshops were given in-depth presentations on Marxist understandings of gender and liberation, followed by a thorough, ranging and generally comradely discussion afterwards. These are notes from two contributions I drafted on my phone before I spoke (the latter I got to give in the session), which I have slightly polished.

From Gender Construction and Capitalism

A comrade raised concerns about the attitudes towards trans* people and one particular contribution which got quite crudely biological about it. I agree, and I think that this was an issue I felt wasn't addressed enough; several comrades also repeatedly used the phrase of "same sex marriage". This is the kind of demand the Tories, Clover Moore & Alex Greenwhich can support; what we should remember we are fighting for is equal marriage, inclusive of all gender identities.

Recently we've seen footballer Robbie Rogers publicly come out shortly after retiring from Leeds - something that the progressive sporting world certainly should take note of, given the role sport plays as a bastion of reinforcing gender identities. The last footballer to do so committed suicide shortly after, alienated from the football community. Robbie has stated that he needed to step away from the sport to do so, but the fact that he felt he could now do so and seems to be recieving much more positive support for it, to me, reflects that something has changed since the turn of the millenium - and the most obvious answer is the equal marriage movement, which has totally shifted public opinion in Australia and overseas.

This is why independent movements of both lgbti people & women is so crucial to ensure we begin to challenge oppression now; the effect that victories, or even just higher levels of struggle, has on popular consciousness is significant, even if it feels as activists we're shouting into the wind.

Most people in the room seem to have different ways of putting it when it comes to feminism, current tasks or demands to emphasise, and I have an opinion on those things, but I think there is common enough opinions amongst socialist that could forms a basis for united work - against the oppression of women today, seeking to win demands like equal pay, reproductive rights or others, in the same way that we have worked together in the equal marriage movement.

From Festivals of the Oppressed - Women in Revolutions from Russia to Egypt.

I think it's a very pertinent topic to consider and thank Julia for the talk. I think we can all agree that so long as we live in a society based on class oppression then we cannot talk about full liberation for anyone.

To build on what Julia raised about how struggle inspires women to find a greater courage and dedication even than many leading male revolutionaries - Michael Lebowitz said in Socialism for the 21st century:
Rather, we change only through real practice, by changing circumstances ourselves. Marx’s concept of “revolutionary practice”, that concept of “the coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change’, is the red thread that runs throughout his work.
This is very true for the process of struggle, particularly at revolutionary peaks, undermining sexist ideas, and other ideologies underpinning oppression. Julia identified women's oppression is a barrier to women getting involved in the class struggle already. I think this means if we want all people to be involved in our movement we should struggle against women's oppression and to challenge sexist ideas and behaviours today - the muck of the ages.

This us a big challenge for the revolutionary movements in the Arab world. Julia mentioned that women have played a key role in protests in Tahrir, leading the chants in the square - this was certainly my experience, even in November still the case!

Tahrir Square, 27/11/11

But women and men have also had to challenge sexual assault in Tahrir; there have been many documented cases of assault against women since January 25, by both by forces of the state and others in the street, and that's an ongoing struggle which has come to the fore again today. But the overall success of revolutionary struggle has meant that independent feminist struggle has grown massively since the downfall of Ben Ali and Mubarak.

A key example is the struggle over the constitution in Tunisia - feminist activists led struggle against a constitutional reform being proposed by Nahda which would define women as "complimentary" to men.. That particular struggle has been a key component, along with union struggle in both cities and interior regions, of rebuilding class struggle to the point where it is now - arguably at a higher level than when Ben Ali was overgrown. The lesson is that independent womens struggle is key, not only for the class struggle as a whole but also building a movement to challenge oppression today and lead to a society where we can be rid of it.

Friday, 29 March 2013

At Marxism 2013

Watch "Peter Boyle: Long live left unity" on YouTube

So i'm here at Marxism 2013. Sofar the conference is pumping; it's perhaps the largest left conference I've been to (although I did miss the last World at a Crossroads conference, which took place while I was in the middle east. #excitement is the word.

This session i'm in now, the Australian political situation today, has been sofar the best for me. It's packed out the room. Why? It's one of the only sessions raising the question of, not only why we need to fight, but how it is to be done in the concrete here and now.

What are our differences on this question, how do we organise to beat this system? We're not yet having out this question formally, so this session is being framed in the most immediate ways - so the process of hashing out such differences needs to expand from here. But from my experience here and the positive exchanges, it sofar seems there is the good will to do so.