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ACI Student Newsletter (Autumn 2012)

ACI Student Newsletter (Autumn 2012)

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www.anticapitalists.org Student Newsletter Autumn 2012 FREE
In
a time of crisis, the gap be-tween the rich and the poorbecomes even wider. Today, govern-ments across the world are using theexcuse of 'belt-tightening' to take away jobs and welfare from those who needit most, claiming that this will solve the
world’s economic problems.
Tax breaks, privatisation andbank bailouts, all in the name of auster-ity, have made the super-rich evenwealthier than ever before. But for therest of us, things are getting worse. Adouble dip recession, and a decade lostto austerity. Young people no longerbelieve their living standards will im-
prove over time. We are told to ‘expectless’, to ‘live within our means’ as if the
costs of the economic crisis werespread evenly across society
when infact working people are being made topay the price.
This can’t go on: radical changeis needed. But here in Britain, we don’t
have a strong left that can challengethe status quo.The Labour Party and the officialleaderships of our unions have fallenbehind a pro-cuts consensus instead of putting up an alternative. Over the lastfew decades they have told us that
capitalism was ‘the only game in town’.
They are no longer socialists at all.On the other hand the rest of theleft is divided into countless small par-ties, often fighting amongst themselves,with campaigns dominated by one so-cialist group or another, and eachclaiming to be the sole bearer of truth.At a time like this we should be build-ing a united organisation that can pre-sent a credible alternative to the main-stream.We need to overcome these divi-sions if we are to start to make a realdifference. Everyone knows a dividedmovement can achieve nothing.
We came together to form theAnticapitalist Initiative to discussideas, reach out to people beyond theorganised left and create a space tofoster collaboration and commonways of working.We come from different ideo-logical backgrounds but we share aconviction; the left has to change if we want to win.
The anti-cuts movement hasbrought a new generation of activistsinto politics. Demonstrations, strikesand protests have returned to Britain
 not yet on the scale that can challengeausterity, but every act of resistance,large or small, confirms the possibilityof radical change.
However, we can’t just get
caught up in a never-ending cycle of protest and dissent. We also need topropose an alternative to capitalism
sothat we can break our chains andachieve real freedom.If we are to connect ideas to ac-tion
to make discussion on the leftreally meaningful and not just abstract
 then we need to move towards a broad,united organisation. One that under-stands the multiple injustices our soci-ety forces upon us; a left fit for the 21stcentury.
Anticapitalist Initiative
 Missed opportunities and falsestarts can breed cynicism and apathy.There have been many attempts atunity amongst the left in Britain.They failed because they werehalf-hearted, insincere, or tried to forceone view and one way of doing thingsonto everyone involved.
We don’t want to be part of an
organisation controlled from the topdown. We want to build one that em-powers activists to make their own de-cisions, and provides a space to takeenergetic initiatives, to share experi-ences, and to develop strategies andsolutions.Capitalism is immensely powerful
the search for profits effects every sin-gle part of our lives. A divided leftcould never hope to challenge it, but aunited left can begin the fight to de-velop an alternative.There are encouraging signs thata breakthrough is possible. The near-victory of SYRIZA in the Greek electionsproves that the left can rise again. Oc-cupy has shown that large numbers of people across the West are prepared totake direct action. We need to buildupon these positive experiences anddevelop practical answers, without shut-ting out critical viewpoints.The left we need should be open,democratic, and radical: one that cantalk sincerely about a credible revolu-tionary challenge to capitalism that isnot just rhetorical.We are reaching out a hand toall those who would stand against in- justice and oppression
whether youare organised or unorganised, new tothe left or an old hand, we want to youto take part, join your local group andhelp coordinate our struggle for a bet-ter world into a united anti-capitalistresistance
.
Photo: Guy Smallman
 
 
In
devising this debate onFeminism Today, the editorialteam wanted to put the question of 
women’s liberation and its predicaments
to the contemporary Left. In this dayand age it might seem to many in theWest that sexism is based solely on ran-
dom bigotry. If women can now ‘buy
their own diamonds and buy their own
rings’, as pop girl band Destiny’s Child
so brilliantly put it, then lesser pay andprofessional condescension towards
women must surely be confined to ‘bad’
employers, misogynist companies stillliving in the dark ages. But while it istrue that the status quo of the malebreadwinner and the patriarchal familyis increasingly undermined, it would bea huge fallacy to affirm, even in the
‘First World’, that feminism and women’
s liberation are no longer necessary.In a time of austerity and finan-
cial disarray, the ‘women’s question’
remains crucial. Just like other post-Warvictories (our public education andhealth services, for instance), so too isthe terrain gained in the struggle for
women’s rights is now at peril. Two
thirds of the British public sector, theone the Coalition government is openlyattempting to decimate, are womenemployees. And out of the £18 billioncuts in benefits, about 70% will be di-rectly affecting women.Across the board women are be-ing hit the hardest. What is the presentday relationship between the personaland the political
and how does classaffect the various issues and problemsfacing women today? On an interna-tional scale, what should the response
of the Left be to the issue of women’s
oppression in the global south? Howcan we navigate that complex web of imperialism, gender, religion and classwithout inadvertently reinforcing otherforms of oppression on women?Second and third wave radicalfeminists often blame the male genderper se. In other words, men are toblame because they are men. The penisand the masculine identity are the rootsof the inequality, the driving force of patriarchy. In fact, this idea has oftenperpetrated some of the average, liberalviews and their perception of women asgentler, more stable and emotionallyintelligent beings. Men are handicappedfrom the start and, thus, their relegationto secondary social structures to benefitfeminine leadership would, they say, dous all a favour. If we had more womenin government and business, then
maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess.
 Liberal left feminists, as well as
some of the ‘new left’ and the Marxist
-libertarian wings, push for a softer ver-
sion of the ‘women & class question’.
Ethnicity and sexual choice are broughtto the forefront together with genderequality. Feminism is sex-positive, gen-der is irrelevant and/or self-defined.Society, in turn, can be reformedthrough lobbying within existing gov-ernmental and social structures. Tosome this includes allying yourself toconservative or neo-liberal feminists inorder to achieve policy changes thatcan improve the lives of women in cer-tain countries or localities.
The ‘old’ left sees change in the
form of class struggle and socialistrevolution. Class above, yet not preclud-ing, gender is the catalyst of oppressionor emancipation.Are these discourses contradic-tory? Can we merge them into an effec-tive and affective synthesis? Can wegive that young girl in the bar the toolsto leave that horrible man? And, fur-thermore, can we create a society inwhich that scenario no longer repro-duces itself and where it would be ut-terly unacceptable, maybe even un-thinkable?
Those are some of the questions wewill try and answer with the FeminismToday roundtable at Anticapital-ists.org. We have showcased short-ened versions some of the contribu-tions in this newsletter. To see the fullversions and other articles visit:anticapitalists.org/category/feminism-today/ Want to see an alterna-tive to austerity? Wantto say no to the cuts andprivatisation hitting ourservices? Then join themass TUC demonstrationon the 20 October andthe student march onthe 21 November
 
I
owe a huge proportion of myidentity and lifestyle to
‘feminism’. It has taught me,
challenged me, comforted me, andintroduced me to inspiring sisters whoencourage me in every aspect of my
life. Without ‘feminism’ I suspect I
would sink into a world of disablingfear and far less hope. Yet I say
‘feminism’ in inverted commas because
it is as diverse as any ideology ormovement, and with its different inter-pretations come different obstacles. Ipropose the current stutters in ourmovements are born of a lack of inter-sectionality, but also an inherited para-noia of the past, that we need to con-tinuously fight the back bite of thesecond wave, and sweeten our de-mands to make our feminism gentlerto men.
I don’t suppose it is particularly
helpful to stubbornly align with anyspecific strand of feminism, in that firstand foremost my feminism influencesmy broader politics. What I mean tosay is that, I am feminist; therefore Ioppose capitalism and all oppression,perpetuated by the existence of states.I believe that fundamentally feminismhas always been of the left, and alwaysopposed hierarchy, which should bedemolished in all structures and rela-tionships.A frequent topic of dispute isthe role of men. Whilst all liberationmovements must be open to commu-nicate with those who do not definewithin said oppressed group, it seemsfeminism still lives in a shadow of ob-session with previous waves. We aresilenced from the fear of being
branded ‘man
-
haters’, and told our
raw honesty is segregationist. Whilst itis frequently useful to receive the in-put and perspectives of pro-feministmen, we must consider the impact thishas on the strength of safe spaces for
women. Consider then, the ‘apathystaircase’ (we experience, we reflect,
we act) in that many feminists will bemoved to action from their own per-sonal experiences. It is important thatthese stories can be shared and dis-cussed, without continuously having to justify or moderate emotions for fearof offending, by generalizing, men.Indeed I have just justified myself.I would suggest that it is some-what rare to attend mixed gendermeetings and hear truly honest andopen discussions of personal experi-ences. I believe this can be achievedby more women-only spaces. In actu-ality, for a man, or other feminists tooppose this on the basis of excludingmen is failing to appreciate the privi-lege pro-feminist men still enjoy
 women do not have access to thesame methods, resources or spaces asmen do on a daily basis. The Guardianfor example, in December 2010 re-ported that 78% of newspaper articlesare written by men
the media beinga major opportunity for discussion,debate and influence.It should be appreciated thatmany women have suffered severeviolence and abuse, often on morethan one occasion, and thus may findit extremely difficult to discuss this infront of men, and that no amount of 
‘vouching’ will ease such nerves. I, for
one, would not feel at ease to openlyaddress my experiences in the hope of supporting, or building a relationshipwith other women (who may or maynot have had similar experiences), inthe presence of a man, whom I couldreasonably fear to take a defensive
reaction, turn the focus to ‘there aresome good men out there’, ‘men ex-perience that too’, or struggle to em-
pathize with what is a daily strugglefor women. Whether individual pro-feminists are guilty of this is not thepoint
what I mean to emphasize isthat whether right or wrong, thesefeelings of distrust do exist, becausewomen are still unequal and do sufferfrequently at the hands of men.Not all meetings need be ab-sent of men, but allowing some to beensures that women have the oppor-tunity to empower themselves throughhonest and open discussion, to build asisterhood with other feminists, and tospeak freely without male or misogy-nist judgement.Read the full article at:anticapital-ists.org/2012/08/04/turning-the-tide/  
Wh
en the whole scandalrecently flared up
again, I said I wasn’t going to talk
about Assange. After numerous Face-book arguments with people on all
sides, I said I wasn’t going to talk
about Assange. After being screamedat for daring not to flock down to theEcuador embassy in uncritical support
of an alleged rapist, I said I wasn’t go-
ing to talk about Assange. And yet,here I find myself talking about Ass-sange, because it matters.I was shocked to seeparts of the very Left which regularlyslams patriarchy, and condemns sex-ism and misogyny, unconditionallydefending a man who has been ac-cused of rape. I was shocked seeingparts of the Left defending a man whohad unprotected sex with a womanwho had specifically not consented tohaving unprotected sex. A man whoinitiated sex with a woman who wasasleep. A man who admits thesethings, and does not call them rape!Sometimes this same Left was noteven mentioning the word rape
as if 
it’s not important, as if the wrongs and
rights of this man cancelled each otherout.I was shocked to see this Leftcoming up with every excuse in thebook for this man. That sometimes
people admit to things they haven’t
actually done, that the women wereCIA agents, that one of them even hadthe audacity to look happy and throwa party in the days after allegedly be-ing sexually assaulted.As a woman, this sent me aclear message: if you happen to besexually assaulted by a man who hasdone good political things, you betternot speak up. Because you will be si-lenced. You will be called a liar, andpeople will support the man, becausepowerful men can get away with thesethings.There is no dichotomy betweensupporting Wikileaks, being againstimperialism, and taking rape accusa-tions seriously. The other choice is tohuddle outside the Ecuador embassybuilding with signs of support, to seeAssange on a balcony, smiling likesome kind of cross between Mussoliniand Eva Peron. The uncritical supportof Assange from parts of the Left hasleft a very sour taste in my mouth. Ithas shown me how much work we stillhave ahead of us as feminists.Read the full article at::anticapital-ists.org/2012/08/20/when-the-left-apologises-for-assange

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