Revolutionary Women and the fight against austerity – Part Two

Revolutionary Women and the fight against austerity – Part Two

Ellen White speaking at the meeting

Ellen White speaking at the meeting

We are pleased to publish the second and final speech from our meeting to mark International Women’s Day. Below is the speech from Ellen White, a member of Coventry Socialist Party. It has been slightly edited for publication. Part one can be viewed here

Women and the fight for socialism

By Ellen White

When I got offered the opportunity to speak today I found it quite daunting. Not because I couldn’t think of anything to say but because I could think of so many revolutionary women to talk about. The sad thing remains that most people have never even heard of these women and don’t fully appreciate what they have done for all of us.

Women have played an important revolutionary role throughout history. Well, Obviously some of you may say, after all we do make up 50% of the population and we have been here the whole time!

I suppose that the best example of revolutionary women was in the Russia Revolution. However historically women have largely been ignored in politics. Society managed to create the image of “woman” as timid, weak and even insincere. We have been subjugated and oppressed, associated with the home and the private sphere too much. Capitalism has doubtless benefitted form this is in varying degrees. While men worked we raised children and kept capitalism ticking along. For a long time women essentially provided free labour. We were even excluded from education.

So when women begin to openly revolt it is often for the simplest things, which can signify the most in so many ways. In 1917 the loudest cry that could be heard from the crowd in St Petersburg was for bread, and this cry was begun by women. Later people demanded freedom, democracy and revolution but arguably this was the beginning of one of history’s most important events.

This wasn’t the first time women had initiated movements and revolutions. The march on Versailles in October 1789, which now accepted to be the earliest and most significant event of the French Revolution was started by women in the marketplace who were near rioting over the price and scarcity of bread.

This developed into angry mobs, teaming with the poor and the oppressed who then marched to the palace of Versailles and by the next morning the Royal family and the entire French assembly were compelled to return with the mob to Parisand we all know what happened next! This was also the first open threat to the king’s authority.

Women today are now largely expected not only to take care of the family needs but also to work. The abilty to juggle all these things has been drastically affected by the government’s austerity measures.It is women who are suffering the most. Not now because of the need for bread, but because of the need for childcare, for benefit support in order to even go to work, to get enough money to buy the bread. Single mothers more than any other group are the people who rely on state benefits in order to merely provide food for their families. These are the state benefits that are being cut. This is why in one of the richest countries in the world families are going to food banks while others sit on riches. There is definitely something wrong with this system and we know from history that it’s not the women.

Sadly it has often been women that have suffered the hardest; countless studies will tell you that women will go without so her family can eat a full meal. Under this government the working classes are being attacked left, right and daycare centre.

If you are working class and women this is not just austerity, this is enforced poverty and we will not take it with solemnity. We should and will revolt.

I will leave you with children poem that I think most of you will know, that will illustrate my final point.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost.

For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

History’s nail was bread. It was the peoples want for bread that led them to question and revolt. Had the rich just appeased them perhaps they would have accepted the rest as they done. Today’s nail is austerity. When the rich have lost their kingdom, through their own greed, they will look back on this day and regret that they hadn’t just given us what we rightly deserve now, because now, the only way is revolution.

Revolutionary Women and the fight against austerity – Part One

Revolutionary women and the fight against austerity – Part One

Non speaking at the Socialist Party meeting

Non speaking at the Socialist Party meeting

 

Last week the Socialist Party in Coventry held a meeting to celebrate International Women’s Day. The meeting discussed a wide range of issues concerning women and the wider struggle against capitalism.

We are pleased to be able to produce below the speech (slightly edited for publication) from the first speaker, Non Frenguelli. Non is a Socialist activist and school student. We will be publishing the speech given by another member, Ellen, shortly

Women and the fight for socialism

When it comes to women in parliament, Britain currently places 53rd in the league tables. This is behind Uganda, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.

Why are women so underrepresented in our political system?

Why are we still earning at least an average of 10% less than men?

Why are ¼ of us still going to be beaten by a partner at least once in our lives?

We’re heard the march of progress theories, and I’m not saying our situation hasn’t improved because it has a damn sight. But an improvement is just that- an improvement. It’s better, but it’s not the best. And why should we settle for anything less than the best- full equality?

Why is it that I’m told I can’t wear a skirt to school because it’s “unfair on the male teachers”?

Why is it that I’m told not to catch the bus home late wearing short shorts, not because it’s cold, but because I’ll attract unwanted attention?

It’s not right that 36% of the people in the UK will tell us it’s at least partially our fault for getting raped if we were drunk. And it’s not ok that 26% will tell us the same for if we were dress in a sexual manner.

In a country where only 77% of young men agree that having sex with someone who has said no is rape, can we really claim we are reaching equality?

Comrades, equality has come along way, but we are far from equal.

We are currently in a public political meeting, a meeting that is aimed women, I am talking to you about women in politics – and we can say that we need more women in our movement.

This HAS to change. We NEED to harness the potential of our female comrades. We are fortunate in the Socialist Party in that our Executive Committee is majority women. Our campaigns against austerity are disproportionally relevant to women as women are affected by austerity disproportionally. With women taking up 2/3 of public sector jobs, women suffer more when these jobs are cut. On an average day, Women’s Aid has to turn away 9% of all women seeking refuge, due to cuts to funding. Women are suffering more under the current government and it’s our party putting up the strongest fight.

With Labour promising to continue the vast majority of cuts brought in by the Con/Dem government, we can’t rely on any of our current politicians to fight for us. We have to step in where our politicians have fallen dismally behind.

We have one of the largest student section out of any of the left wing parties. We have an active presence in communities around the city. We punch well above our weight in terms of our work campaigning on a wide range of issues from cuts to the NHS, parking charges at Walsgrave hospital, and fighting for an increase in the minimum wage. Out of everybody currently working on minimum wage, 70% of them are women. This campaign, if it succeeds, will have a dramatic impact on the working lives of millions of women.

We need a party that can fight for the rights of women, fight for the rights of the working class, fight for the rights of students. Because these rights won’t be, these rights have never been, given to us without a fight.

We fought for paid maternity leave

We fought for union rights

We fought for minimum wage

And the leaders of the political establishment fought back bitterly with every advance

Comrades, time has shown us that if we want anything, we have to fight for it.

Only with a revolutionary party that is willing to go the whole slog and fundamentally change society to a more equal one- can we finally have true equality and smash the patriarchy.

Capitalism preserves patriarchy.

Comrades, it sounds extreme but if we’re to smash the patriarchy- we have to smash capitalism.

So why don’t you join us?

Agree with Non? Fill in the form below for more information about joining the Socialist Party

Successful Reclaim the Night protest in Coventry

 Successful Reclaim the Night protest in Coventry

Reclaim the Night!

Reclaim the Night!

By Nicky Downes, Coventry NUT (personal capacity)

(In the 1980s Nicky was a student at Coventry Polytechnic now Coventry University and was also the Polytechnic’s first Sabbatical Women’s Officer)

On the 1st of March on a cold Saturday night the Reclaim the Night March organised by groups such as Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, students at Coventry University, Coventry Women’s Voices and others and supported by trade unions such as Unite, Coventry TUC and including the NUT, finished on the steps of the cathedral. It was quite easy looking across at the student’s union to draw parallels with what had happened in the 1980s and today.

It was heartening that approximately 100 women had come together to march to reclaim the streets of Coventry; to rally against sexual harassment and violence and to demand safer streets. In the 1980s under Thatcher we had similar calls. Demands for better street lighting; for choice to do what we want with our bodies and for better childcare on campus.

Today there are women, who have been the most hardest hit with the cuts to public services in this city, fighting for the most basic things: a living wage, access to children’s centres, an end to the bedroom tax and for benefits that will ensure they can feed their children. We need to take up these demands and fight against austerity cuts.

The Socialist Party is organising an evening to celebrate International Women’s Day. See below

Revolutionary Women and the Fight against Austerity

Tuesday 4th March

7pm

Esquires Café, Coventry Transport Museum, CV1 1JD

See Facebook event here