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activism Hastings Labour Politics Uncategorized women

Another community activist says farewell to Labour

Guest blog: Julia Price

Julia Price joined the Labour Party in 2015, in south London. She canvassed for Labour in local elections and for the Mayor of London election in May 2016 when the Labour candidate, Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan won.            

After moving to St Leonards in 2016, she helped with canvassing in 2017. That same summer, she became closely involved in the local campaign to save St Leonards Crown Post Office. She canvassed and campaigned for Labour’s Parliamentary candidate, Peter Chowney in June 2017, when Peter came within 346 votes of Amber Rudd, the sitting Tory MP, massively reducing her majority. 

In early 2018 she was a council candidate for Labour in West St Leonards. She campaigned and canvassed in this ward and across the borough. She came within 56 votes of winning the West St Leonards ward for Labour.

She canvassed and campaigned almost daily in the December 2019 general election.

In March 2021, Julia sent Labour the following message:

Julia’s Farewell to the Labour Party

I have cancelled my monthly Direct Debit to the Labour Party. It is with sadness and regret that I would like to ask you to cancel my membership. There is no longer enough to keep my allegiance, my respect and my belief in the Labour Party. Too many betrayals of too many good, loyal, hard-working Party members, and especially of Jeremy Corbyn. Too many witch hunts. Too much betrayal of women. Of women MPs in the House and of women’s rights. The signing of the so-called Trans Pledge. The Party’s acceptance of the gender ideology mantra: trans women are women. They are not. They are trans women. Trans men are trans men. All respect to trans people and may they live their lives safely and well. But biology is real and women as a sex class have protection under the Equality Act 2010. The Labour Party offers no support or protection to women who are aggressively silenced and vilified by trans rights activists who operate throughout social media and on university campuses, in CLPs and in workplaces.

Silence on the risk to children

No attempt to protect children from the capture of trans ideology; it has taken this Tory government to do that: to ban puberty blockers to under 16s without a court order. It took a detransitioning young woman, Keira Bell, to take the Tavistock Clinic to court and win a High Court judgement against them in December 2020. Then there was the subsequent CQC-judgement of the Tavistock Clinic as Inadequate in January this year. A 4000% plus increase in the decade to 2018 of young teenage girls seeking to transition. Being referred to start medical pathways after only one or two gender identity clinic consultations. No time spent considering their sociological and / or psychological backgrounds. A concern expressed in a report by Dr David Bell, ex staff governor and psychologist at the Tavistock.

Shocking dishonesty

The shocking news in the leaked report last year that the executive and others in the Labour Party were so anti Corbyn that they actively worked to snag and disrupt the GE campaigns of 2017 & 2019. Working against hundreds and thousands of Party members like me who were out practically every day, knocking on doors, canvassing and campaigning hard for a Labour victory.


This is dishonourable, uncomradely conduct. It is not what I thought the Labour Party was about. I no longer wish to be a member.


I have met many wonderful people during my five and a half years of membership. I am grateful for their comradeship and friendship. I wish them well.

Editor’s note: Julia is one of the many Labour Party women who worked so enthusiastically for socialism in that hope-filled time between 2016 and 2019, but are now leaving the party. She received no reply to her farewell statement.

Categories
activism Book reviews book shops Politics Uncategorized women

Really useful feminism

Why we should all read Julie Bindel’s new book

I’ve been wondering why feminism grabbed me so much the second time I looked, but not the first.

I remember feminism going on around me when I was a teenager. I had a vague idea it involved a lot of arguments about whether you should shave your legs or not. A couple of decades later, my daughter told me she’d had the impression for years that she couldn’t be a feminist because she likes dressing up, cooking and being a mum.

In the 70s, I couldn’t do feminism because I didn’t like dungarees. In the 80s, I couldn’t afford the ‘power dressing’ and then in latter years, I thought I couldn’t be a feminist because my partner was a bloke, and because the ‘feminists’ I saw on telly all seemed to spend their time making pointlessly rude and embarrassingly flirtatious swipes at men. And anyway, those somewhat boring organisations like the Fawcett Society and Labour Women’s Network were constantly bashing on about whether female execs in London were earning enough tens of thousands more than me, yet.

And then Stonewall tried to get women’s legal rights repealed. A new kind of women’s campaign (new to me) came along. I was so angry, so involved, and so excited, talking to so many great women, helping to put together ideas for the Women’s Place UK manifesto, getting involved with the Women’s Liberation Conference, and to top it all, I’d discovered FiLiA, with its glorious weekend every year of women singing, women cooking, women dancing, running businesses, making friends, building communities and doing politics, women escaping and traveling the world as fugitives, then coming together at last, singing, cooking, dancing, making friends, running businesses, building communities and doing politics.

People ask why women get so ‘obsessed’ with the sex based rights campaign, why we never ‘come down off it’. Well you know, there’s more to it than that. For those of us who were relatively new to feminism, the women we met on the way told us about real feminism, and Woman’s Place, and all the other organisations the benighted like to call ‘anti-trans hate groups’ set women’s worlds on fire. It’s VERY exciting. (Apparently, last time around they called the women’s groups ‘anti-men hate groups’.)

Read Julie Bindel’s REALLY exciting new book, and discover proper feminism. As she explains, the stuff that went mainstream – liberal feminism, they call it, IS boring. Radical feminism isn’t feminism only more so, it’s the growing, sustaining root of feminism. In manifestation, it’s any aspect of feminism that’s not acceptable to the establishment.

We don’t want half the seats at the table,’ says Bindel, ‘we want to break the table.’

Feminism is about rescuing and standing with fugitives, it’s about learning and teaching, about fighting back, about community politics and addressing the problems that are so big mainstream politicians barely dare touch them.

Buy the book, go to FiLiA. Get angry, get serious, get excited. You can sing, dance, make friends, dress up and cook as you go if you want to. You can also make up your own mind as to whether you shave your legs or not. You decide, it doesn’t matter – but you might have some interesting conversations over coffee about why mainstream society thinks such things matter so much.

Just read the book, in fact read all her books, and her journalism. I am!

Video: Julie Bindel in conversation with Claire Horchan

The book…

Categories
Hastings Labour media Politics Uncategorized women

Anatomy of a witch hunt

A newly elected councillor (let us call her Councillor A) abstains in a council vote to make another councillor (let’s say Councillor B) Deputy Mayor. No news there, you would have thought.

But when news gets out, the inevitable speculative social media posts appear, quickly escalating to accusing not just Councillor B but every councillor who voted for her of transphobia.

After a flurry of statements, demands for more statements, and local press articles, Councillor A finally makes her accusation, on social media. She writes:

"In May I abstained from voting for Councillor [redacted] to be deputy mayor on grouns of conscience following her posting several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment, as well as her refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document and her refusal to support the party policy on Self ID in conversation with myself."

Let us take these acccusations one by one. No evidence has been offered, as far as I know but…

 ‘several social media posts that contained anti trans sentiment’

I assume this is a reference to her once sharing an invitation by a women’s group to respond to the Government’s public consultation on GRA reform. (that’s the Gender Recognition Act) I’ll give details of why tens of thousands of women did that later in this blog.

‘refusal to accept the Equality Act as a valid document’

As far as I know Councillor B fully supports the Equality Act, friends tell me she emphatically supports it, and has said so whenever asked, whereas I now hear that our CLP wants to ‘reform’ the Equalities Act, with Councillor A’s full support.

‘refusal to support the party policy on self ID in conversation with myself’

Fellow party members are pretty sure Councillor A herself was among those who declined (which I guess amounts to refusal) to support the party policy on sex-based rights in a recent Labour Party meeting, so she obviously knows supporting every line of party policy in every situation is not compulsory – indeed, it would be unrealistic to expect anyone to go with every single clause of it.

So we’re left with two counts of having to prove a negative, and one question as to an alleged conversation. I personally worry about the content and tone of an alleged conversation that leads to someone having to ‘refuse’ to support an item of party policy.

Councillor A’s accusation is then shared to a large local social media group by the local CLP secretary who writes:

Various individuals on social media pages and the local papers then go to town on the council’s ‘trans rights problem’.

Do we have a story here? Well, there is the press release from the local Pride organisation, stating that ‘one councillor knew of her views on the trans community’, and Pride claims to know about, but does not reproduce, offending social media posts, and it then goes on to refer to ‘posts like the ones shared by [Councillor B], combined with bigoted think-pieces in legacy media…’

Still no actual evidence. What is meant by ‘legacy’ posts? – is it screenshots taken from one, often private, group later posted in public? Whether or not we *should* legally get to see such things and whether they have anything to do with Councillor B is another matter but, so far, to my knowledge, we haven’t been given any evidence.

But no matter, the social media storm grows, causing fallings-out, and refusals by various people to work with various other people, and most recently producing demands that councillor after councillor repeat Stonewall’s mantra, ‘transwomen are women’ and ‘trans men are men’.

=====================================

That, as far as it goes, is the story. It led to major, I would say actionable, accusations from the stage at Sunday’s Pride do. Over the last four months, representatives from Pride/HRRA have been approached by the council both privately and on public record and, when they seemed concerned, they were invited on several occasions to make a formal complaint with relevant links but neither HP nor HRRA have done so, nor have they or the councillor who made the public claim offered any evidence for their concerns.

Update 06/09/2021: Because I was told there are accusations of the council not communicating, I investigated this and found that reps from HRRA had discussions about the situation with an ex-councillor and current councillors, including the council’s equalities lead, and extensive email exchanges. They were offered the means to produce evidence and complain officially. They did not want to do this.

=====================================

Many people are asking, as they often do on the subject of the sex and gender issue…

Why does it all get so nasty?

To answer that, I now need to explain why tens of thousands of women shared invitations to respond to that Government consultation on GRA reform, and also why so many people seem to think the women’s groups who did so are ‘anti-trans hate groups’.

It’s because…

Initially, the government did not consult – they appeared on course to accept Stonewall’s advice that all they need to do to give trans people what they wanted was to cancel the sex exemption in the Equalities Act.

An excerpt from Stonewall’s submission, and a link to details…

https://womansplaceuk.org/references-to-removal-of-single-sex-exemptions/

According to Maria Miller MP, who was dealing with the issue at the time, there was no opposition apart from ‘some people purporting to be feminists.’ There proved to be a large number of purporters, because women were realising that we had a conflict of rights developing if the GRA were reformed to allow for immediate sex self ID – that is, to allow anyone, for any purpose, to be treated in law as the opposite sex on their say-so – not because they had ‘transitioned’ or ‘had the op’ or had a medical condition that their doctor said required it, just on their say-so.

The mantra-like phrase ‘trans women are women, trans men are men’ is the campaigners’ iteration of that idea. Is there a problem with that? At the moment, the Equality Act has 9 separate exemptions. One is for ‘gender reassignment’, and is there to protect trans people. Another is for ‘sex’, and is the legal basis of women’s rights. If, however, ‘trans women are women’ is enshrined in law, the sex exemption becomes meaningless, as does the Sex Discrimination Act.

It also has repercussions for single-sex attraction – another protected characteristic in our Equality Act. Differences of opinion as to how that might work have led to some people feeling there’s a conflict that makes separate groups for same-sex attracted people necessary, an idea that others find so abhorrent that it has led to several instances of gay and lesbian people getting drummed off Pride marches in recent years.

In both those cases, giving ‘self ID’ or the concept of ‘innate gender identity’ legal standing takes away the legal tools that women need to deal with issues arising from their sex – their biology – because they are ‘adult human females’ – that is the dictionary definition of what we are, and became one women’s group’s campaign call in response to ‘trans women are women’. That’s why it is now called ‘hate speech’ by trans rights activists. That’s another blinder against women. Misogyny is not, so far, considered a hate-crime aggravator, so when things get heated, only the slogans from the women’s side of the campaign can be called out as ‘hate speech’. Even as things stand now, trans people are better protected in law than mere women.

The GRA consultation

I was one of the women who filled in that consultation. I said something along these lines:

Trans women are trans women. They are protected in law. They have the same human rights as everyone else. They should be treated with dignity and respect, just like everyone else. They are protected in law from discrimination, and we should all contribute to their being allowed to live their lives, call themselves what they want, dress how they want and believe what they want, just like everyone else. Also, like everyone else, they deserve better health and social care provision than they are currently getting so yes, I daresay the GRA does need reforming but not in a manner that disables women’s sex-based rights. One law should not be set up to trump another.

‘There is no conflict of rights’?

We are often told that. My CLP set out to pass a motion supporting trans rights, saying there was no conflict of rights. I suggested that in that case, they should also support sex-based rights in the motion. They refused, saying I was being ‘provocative’. Well, when I say they refused, my amendment was lost by one vote.

It has recently been demonstrated (in a court case concerning male sex offenders assaulting inmates in female prisons) that the balance of rights as it stands now is already detrimental to women – here’s the relevant part of the ruling, and a link if you’d like the details…


https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/1746.html

So women have good reason to stand by our own definition of ourselves. Here’s a twitter-thread from Jeremy Corbyn’s former policy manager, listing the issues we still need to resolve before self-ID is feasible…

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1430569612748414977.html

The fact that we still have all this to do is the reason the Labour Party manifesto states an intention to ‘work towards’ rather than instantly grant, self-ID.

Stonewall, Pride and the rest of them are not happy with the wait but their only alternative strategy seems to be demanding that everyone repeats their mantra, and periodically making a public attack on a woman, bullying her in a way that generally makes the majority stay quiet, for fear of being the next target.

Another mantra they love to hear repeated is

Trans rights are human rights

What does that mean? It’s true that trans people have the same human rights as the rest of us – that includes the right to our own beliefs, the right to express those beliefs, and a right not to be bullied into accepting and parroting others’ beliefs. No-one has to say ‘trans women are women’. The fact that some of our councillors responded to Councillor B being publicly bullied by queuing up to agree to ‘trans women are women’ is unnecessary and (in my view) an abject failure to defend a colleague from the witch hunters. If that’s what they believe then, as demonstrated, it is their right to do so but they might like to think about the recent Forstater case decision which confirms their duty in law to protect their colleagues from harassment and discrimination for their beliefs. That includes the right not to believe something, and protection from compelled speech.

Maya Forstater announces the result of the court hearing:

Excerpt – ‘This created a legal precedent that people should not face discrimination or harassment at work or as users of services because of their beliefs about sex and gender identity.’

How do we solve this?

Ultimately, the only solution – for trans women and for natal women – is to dump the societal demands of gender (so everyone feels free to dress, behave etc as they need to) and put an end to male violence, so women do not need to be cautious about male access.

That could take a while though so, in the meantime I suggest there are two options: either absolutely everyone must shut up about women’s rights, and repeat the mantras whenever they are required to do so or else councils should stop giving good money, humble obeisance and regular sacrificial victims to Stonewall, Pride et al. I’m sure they could find a better way of showing off their commitment to equality and diversity.

Which solution do you prefer?

=========================

=========================

Further info:

The Labour Party Manifesto 2019, page 66

"nsure that the single-sex based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision." - 2019 manifesto, p66

When the women’s campaign first came to the media’s attention, Jeremy Corbyn, then leader of the Labour Party, had this to say: “People are free to campaign within the party and publicly, of course they are, and raise these issues and have that discussion.” – Jeremy Corbyn on the Andrew Marr Show, 28 Jan 2018.  That seems to me to be the least one would except in a country that has laws protecting freedom of speech and belief – not that any of our current councillors have taken part in any such campaign, as far as I know.

Categories
activism Labour Politics prejudice Uncategorized women

Solidarity? It’s out here!

Being a socialist feminist in mainstream politics is a pain, it really is. If you intend to read this article, for your sanity, before you start could you remind yourself that outside of party politics, people have families, friends and colleagues with a range of opinions and ideas, and they mostly manage to get along, and even enjoy discussing their different opinions….

Then you have the Labour Party, which a friend recently said feels like this…

… a party which would appear to be full of ‘socialists’ who exclude anyone who talks socialism, and ‘feminists’ who support misogyny in the thinnest of disguises, and jump down your throat if you dare mention ‘controversial’ topics like women’s legal rights,

That may be a slight exaggeration – or is it? A significant proportion of my socialist friends who have been visible in lefty organisations and debates are now getting those ‘Are you or have you ever been….’ auto-exclusion letters but others, whilst yelling about that injustice, are scoffing at the idea women are being side-lined. Well, here is the only successful (if you can call it that) attempt to discuss women’s legal rights at the Labour Women’s Conference…

Or you have the Green Party, where as a woman, you are liable to find yourself being referred to as a ‘non-man’, so terrifying is that ‘controversial’ word ‘woman’.

By the way, on the left Red and Green used to be friends

They have a leadership election coming up. They have the opportunity to choose between Shahrar Ali, who has expressed the heretical view that people ought to be able to talk about women’s rights…

….or this (apparently women who disagree with Womack are sh*t that won’t go away)

https://mobile.twitter.com/Obsolesence/status/1428267078860132353

Fortunately for Green Party members, it’s an STV election, so you could for example vote for Shahrar Ali and a civilised debate *and* vote for an effective activist woman, such as Tina Rothery (Ali is a socialist/environmentalist activist of long standing too by the way, so vote for both of them!) and if there’s someone you really, really don’t want, you just put ‘RON’ which means ‘re-open nominations’ ie, ‘this candidate is not acceptable’.

There’s even the option, if you’re a ‘civilian’ who broadly supports the Green Party, of joining for a while (it costs £3 per month) voting for civilised debate (Ali) and a focus on actual environmental issues (Ali and Rothery), then scarpering before anyone discovers you’re one of those foul people who is a socialist, thinks sex exists, believes in freedom to debate, and even dares to say ‘woman’.

Which reader are you?

You might be one of those Labour Party people who are intent on getting rid of ‘the hard left’ or ‘far left’ – please bear in mind that our country is way off track from a global or historical perspective. Terms like left and right are not static and, according to most progressive politicians outside the UK people who supported Jeremy Corbyn here, and Bernie Sanders in the US, are actually democratic socialists, and therefore relatively moderate.

There will be those whose political and trade union experience and general common sense tell them that allowing a proper debate is the way to solve a conflict. To them I say, please speak your truth more loudly – the hurlers of abuse are absolutely drowning out common sense from both socialists and feminists in ‘progressive’ politics at the moment.

There will be Red and Green people who think that gender-critical women are being silly about trans people. Please find out what these ‘trans activists’ mean when they say ‘trans rights’ – they aren’t fighting for what you may think they are. They are fighting for a law change to ensure the right of any kind of male, at no notice whatsoever, to just say ‘I am a woman’ or even ‘I am non-binary’ (a term no-one has yet found any material or science-based definition for) and gain entry to women’s spaces and services for any reason or none, or just for a laugh.

There will be those who just think this is a horrible, transphobic article, and that everything people like me say is ‘hate speech’ and that we can’t possibly be socialists. To think that, you have to also think there is absolutely no truth in the idea that any male would abuse opportunities of access to vulnerable women and girls. To you I can only say – what planet are you living on?

There will also be those who think women bothering them about women’s issues is an annoying distraction, some sort of obsession that gets in the way of serious socialism. I think they, above all else, are the main reason that I, a socialist feminist, can’t put up with the Labour Party any more. You know what? Even the Communist Party of Great Britain are doing a better job of listening to a range of women’s opinions. This is an extensive and useful debate about what’s going on…

https://fb.watch/7wCSyheyIy/

Personally, I’m not going to join any of those parties but I am going to go to FiLiA, where among the genuinely women-centred events and talks, we will meet Women Uniting – an all-party political group, formed to try and persuade the political world that sex matters, and that women matter, whatever their political hue.

https://filia.org.uk/latest-news/2020/6/21/women-uniting

But we’ll no doubt have to put up with a cluster of pottymouths ‘protesting the meeting’. No-one seems to mind women from left and right getting together to debate but apparently, allowing all the varieties of feminism is not acceptable to ‘the left’ in Plymouth ‘Antifa’ and CLP. If you’re in the area, try telling them what you think about people bullying women when they meet to debate. At best, they’ll tell you about something nasty someone reputedly said, offering it as proof that Women Uniting is yet another ‘far right hate group’. But don’t try to tell them that conferences are debating arenas, and that there’s no such thing as a conference in which only one opinion is allowed, because there is, as Labour will discover in September – the Blairites are in charge again, and you know what happens to people who express divergent opinions at Blairite conferences…

[The Red-Green image in the body of this article comes from London Green Left. Please read the article and comments. It’s very informative…

The image at the head of this article comes from an organisation now proscribed by the Labour Party, I forget which one. I wonder what they said wrong.]

…but (don’t forget) outside party politics, people *can* discuss their differences so if you’ve still got the party-political bug, here’s Shahrar Ali’s pitch – if you want to rescue socialism in the Labour Party, there will be ‘alternative’ meetings around conference in September. Look here for socialist news – or here for feminist news or if, like me, you’ve had it with party politics, please don’t give up with *politics*. There is much that can be done, in a comradely way, from out here.

Categories
activism Corbyn economics Election Labour Politics Uncategorized women

Dwellers on the threshold

List A: Things you can do without being a member of a political party

Set up and promote petitions

Go on demos

Organise demos

Organise political education and film nights

Write to your MP

Get up delegations to go and visit MPs for discussions

Write blogs, make videos and pod casts

Join an affiliated union and vote through policies they’ll support for you at party conference

Campaign for decent councillors and, come election time, parliamentary candidates

Go to hustings and question parliamentary candidates

Go to political meetings and lectures that interest you, *whoever* is organising them

Meet with the local branches of political parties, and tell them what you are doing and why

Talk to members of all parties without appearing to be ‘the enemy’

Get up campaign groups of your own from amongst your friends and colleagues, to campaign on topics that matter to you

Contact anyone – *anyone* who has an idea that interests you, and ask for a coffee and a chat

List B: Things you don’t have to do if you’re not a member of a political party

Sit through weekly or monthly meetings that go on for two hours or more even if no-one has anything constructive to say/do

Pay subs, only to receive endless appeals for cash anyway

Stand by policies you don’t really agree with

Try to support the party candidate, even if they are a parachuted-in disaster

Put up with abuse from partisan evangelists just because they are in the same party as you

Avoid being seen with, or being caught talking about, proscribed people and organisations, such as Ken Loach, Jeremy Corbyn, Julie Bindel, Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Julian Assange (yeah yeah, there are probably people there you don’t agree with but you know, if you’re not a party animal, you’re allowed to question/debate with/learn about *anyone you want to*.)

Give up on having any political influence when your party’s not in power

Spend whole days delivering leaflets that, as far as you can see, say nothing useful at all

But here’s the really good bit

You can do all the things on list A even if you *are* a member of a political party – it’s just that you don’t have to do list B, and are not *limited to* working with party members and/or within the limits of party policy if you understand that being kicked out isn’t the end of politics for you.

Don’t fret if you want to leave your political party, don’t fret if they’ve thrown you out or bullied you out, and don’t feel silenced if you’re still in, and they’ve told you what not to say. There is life – and politics enough to change our world – beyond the party meeting.

Solidarity to all the socialists, environmentalists, feminists and others who are worried about being ‘politically homeless’ – it’s a mirage! See you at conferences, on demos, in the pub, all over the place, doing politics. You are not politically homeless. The whole country is your home!

Image by Lily Maynard https://lilymaynard.com/womens-liberation-2020-a-wpuk-conference/
https://www.counterfire.org/
https://filia.org.uk/
https://www.stopwar.org.uk/
https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-a-union
https://climatenetwork.org/
https://www.facebook.com/Keep-Our-NHS-Public-Hastings-Rother-106432804464520

Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

Categories
media Politics Uncategorized women

Everything is fine, nothing to see here!

“Do what you can”   “Choose your battles”

I have heard that too much lately, and usually as advice to women to leave certain contentious issues alone. It’s not working. What it’s doing (oooh call Prevent!) is pushing large numbers of women to the margins of culture and society. No, I am not exaggerating.

Imagine….

Anorexia and bulimia

You don’t hear much about them lately but when I was younger, eating disorders were a huge cause of suffering and illness to girls. Anorexia caught the girls who wanted to win, and bulimia caught the girls who needed comfort. Both tended to come with other ‘unhappiness’ issues, and/or drug or alcohol abuse. Both caused parents – mothers in particular, vast amounts of heart-ache. Both were tricky in that telling girls directly that they were harming themselves just did not help.

At least schools, doctors and social services understood that they were problem issues, and that we needed to try and rescue our girls from them.

Self-harming

This is an issue that is very much with us today and is often used by girls as a distractor or tension release, so like eating disorders, it would appear to be a symptom of some other horrible problem and, like eating disorders, there’s nothing to be gained by telling girls they shouldn’t do it.

But at least schools, doctors and what’s left of social services understand that it’s a problem issue, and that we need to try and rescue girls from it.

At least the BBC don’t keep going on about how fashionable and wonderful those behaviours are. At least public websites and social media pages extolling such behaviour would soon be challenged by an outraged society.

But what if those terrible things had been encouraged by the media? What if well-funded, respectable organisations peddled eating disorders as virtuous, liberating actions, or presented self-harm as self-medication, like medieval blood-letting or something? What if newspapers fashionably pornified them, what if schools not only let the girls get on with it but facilitated it, and censured parents who weren’t happy about it?

What would you do if I told you slick, well funded organisations were going into schools and teaching behaviours which justified and led to self-harms like that? What if I told you teachers were under incredible pressure to approve of and facilitate those behaviours? What if those worried parents were being led to believe they had to support their children’s actions, that they were duty bound to approve, to protect their children?

Yes, you know where this is going, don’t you?

Even gender-identity proselytes will agree that breast binding and requiring male pronouns are a sign a girl is unhappy with herself as she is. Do they also blithely accept that such behaviours lead to twilight enquiries after puberty blockers, hormones and mastectomies? Should we blithely accept that?

Can you see how those behaviours, like eating disorders and self-harm, are the presenting factor of a deeper issue that needs attention? Have you been there, and seen all the pain and conflict this is causing? Perhaps if you imagine yourself telling a worried parent that there’s nothing we can do about anorexia or self-harming right now, that they should choose their battles, and that you don’t want to get involved? Or imagine yourself advising carers to wink at FGM because it’s cultural? Do you see what’s wrong with this situation?

Sure, where’s the harm in them identifying as boys for a bit? I’ll tell you where it is.

  1. You are re-enforcing the idea that only boys can behave how they want to behave.
  2. Girls love to – need to – look the part – and that means breast binding, which limits breathing and movement, and so damages their health.
  3. Breast-binding weakens breast tissue, and makes their breasts look odd, and girls hate looking odd, so then they think mastectomy is the only solution.
  4. And to make sense of it all after that, they need puberty blockers, hormones, drugs you can’t get legitimately if you’re under 16 so…

If you have a position in council, in a political party or in a union, you CAN do something about this. If you have a role in culture, arts, media or education, you can do something. Wherever you are in life, if a woman tells you something terrible is happening to our girls, something that will lead them to serious harm, you can, and should, do something – even if it is only to tell that woman you appreciate how serious it is, and resolve to stop avoiding the topic for fear of offending someone or looking uncool.

Maybe if you were to find out a bit more about what’s happening…

Kiera Bell’s story

A therapist’s story

The young woman’s burden by Janice Turner

Safe Schools Alliance

Transgender Trend

Sex Matters

I’m not asking everyone to be a hero. What we do need is for absolutely everyone to fight the deeply embedded idea that girls should look/talk/behave in a certain way. What I would like to hear, everywhere I go, is people saying that youngsters who don’t conform to gender are just fine as they are, and should not be harassed, teased, judged, pornified at every turn.

What we most urgently need to hear is people loudly and persistently defending the women who criticise gender expectations and gender-based theories.

Shut down the bullies and the liars. That is always everyone’s duty.

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activism Corbyn Politics Uncategorized women

Who or what is coming home?

If football ‘comes home’, I have a question or two.

I think I have watched about two ‘proper’ football matches in my life. I really don’t do international level sport-as-a-spectator stuff. So I’m a bit worried about how you go about writing a blog about football.

It’s like this – it’s clear ‘football’ has changed. Even Craig Murray found himself unable to hate the England football supporters in London last week.

Does that mean it’s gone all middle class and respectable, like rugby? Not quite. There’s something else, isn’t there. Remember this….

…. I know, the anti-austerity movement was gaining ground before Corbyn, and I know there are those who hope and pray that the movement that for several years focused on Corbyn as Labour leader has gone forever but it hasn’t, and – well, we knew it would crop up again somewhere, somehow, and… I don’t know when it started re-forming around football. If you’re a fan, you probably do, but it’s good to feel that feeling again. The first time I personally noticed it in football was when Marcus Rashford spoke up for the kids the government was doing out of their school dinners, which led to loads of social media claims that he was making a better job as leader of the opposition than Starmer was (admittedly that’s a pretty low bar, but…)

Now, there’s definitely a feeling that whether football ‘comes home’ or not, the popular movement is back, with a new focus to keep it rolling. Now surely, surely that is a good thing…

Looks good.
Looks good!
Looks go-o-o-o-o-d!

But but but – FOOTBALL?

That’s great but – you know, I’m sure it’s well-meaning and if it works then great but – FOOTBALL?

This football?

the undisputed connection between football and VAWG

… even when you realise that, win or lose, a big football match leads to domestic and other sex-based violence? Okay, the football doesn’t cause it but for many, football evokes and provokes it. Did you notice, in Craig Murray’s comment up there, he was just fine until he was scared by a bunch of women enjoying themselves?

Do I worry unduly? – true, the fantastic coming together against the capitalist ‘superleague’ touts revived the nation’s battered ability to find solidarity after Corbyn but can football really escape from its violent, misogynistic, nationalistic, divisive cultural base? If I doubt it, it’s firstly because people keep telling me how many, many years it is since ‘England’ had a decent win. But – I remember this….

‘England’ is also a women’s team – but who cares?

Virtue signaling

That’s what I fear. is this really a movement for everyone? All those stories of loving, giving mothers and sisters helping on the way to footballers’ stardom puts me in mind of an incident at a book launch years ago. An author was waxing lyrical about his gratitude to his wife and various other women for the hournhours of work they’d put in to support the gestation of the book, when someone put their hand up and said, “if the book could never have happened without your wife’s research skills etc etc, she must have been doing that instead of furthering her own career, so why isn’t her name on the cover?”

…. so as a feminist I am very dubious about England as football ‘coming home’ to be the new people’s movement, not least because I worry that like so many lads-based cultures, their response to anything women may have to say about women’s legal standing in these turbulent times will be “just be kind…”. I can just see all these enthusiastic sporty types claiming that sexism and all its attendant cruelties are history – I hope they won’t, because they will probably at least have heard of sporty people like Martina Navratilova and Sharon Davies. and the Olympics are coming up and they must have noticed a problem there, surely – swimming caps? Breast-fed babies? Weight lifting? If they can ignore all that, they ain’t for me – and that ability to ignore, or instantly know best, on ‘women’s issues’ was for me and thousands of other women, one of the harbingers of the end of the Corbyn movement. Please gods, don’t let that happen again.

Oh and by the way – Scotland exists. Also Wales. But here’s hoping…

Categories
activism Housing Politics Uncategorized

How to be patriotic

I spent this morning at work in my garden. A very, very British thing to do, weekend gardening.

I spent this afternoon listening to Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burgon talking about patriotism and national security. How quickly we forget what it was like when the good guys were getting to do all the big political speeches.

Patriotism is looking after the people and the land around you. Community work and environmental work, in other words. Oh and gardening, of course.

Security

National security is about dealing with the threats the people are facing. What threats are our people facing? Climate change, pandemic, global conflict – so build relationships across the globe to address global-scale problems, recognise that you can’t put a fence round one little island in the North Sea to stop viruses, extreme climate events or nuclear missiles at the border.

We need to stop UK companies selling chemicals and weapons to the countries creating the conflicts, causing the disasters, driving the refugee tides. What other threats do our people face? Shortage of housing, of wages, of food – so we need to build council houses, create jobs, pass laws making food a human right, and look at how we produce and price food. What else? Threats to our health service? so we need to re-instate and re-fund the NHS. Where will the money from all that come from? I know, says Jeremy Corbyn – let’s use the billions the current government are planning on putting into creating weapons to feed more wars.

Farewell to Prince Philip

Go on, give him a couple of minutes thought, or however long you generally spend on someone you’ve heard of, who’s died. Patriotism, and national security, depend on us recognising that no one person is more important than the others, but keeping faith with the rule that every single one does matter. Let us hope that the current generation of young royals will put the monarchy idea peacefully to bed now – maybe when their gran passes on.

Our job

Meantime, we – all of us – need most urgently to find out how to get control of the rest of the elite who are wrecking the world – the aristocracy, the billionaires, the privileged, public school set who think they own the country. Please put your mind to it, and help with finding the ways. It’ll take all of us – and it’s the most patriotic thing you could be doing with your time.

This seems to be playing in my head, so here it is – you’d better listen to it too.

Oh, and this….

Categories
activism Book reviews Corbyn Election Labour media Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

The Truth, eh?

Socialism A, socialism B, and why everyone who was paralysed by despair on 13th December 2019 should be back in action by now...

The Ministry of Truth

We’ve always been very keen on throwing the term ‘Orwellian’ at anything we consider less than honest but in recent years, the term seems to apply more and more often. Last week (April 2021) a story broke which qualifies 100% – a firm of UK lawyers get the job of doctoring textbooks to suit the Israeli market

And reading that, I remembered that during the compilation of the recent report on racism (that found there wasn’t any) there had been talk of providing ‘the real truth’ to schools. Just trying to imagine what such a scheme would look like under our current government made my toes curl.

The impossibility of agreeing ‘the truth’ with the average citizen you meet in the street was a constant burning problem for Labour activists during the 2017 and 2019 election campaigns, not to mention during the nightmare of the Brexit referendum. The enormity, the impossibility, of that task in the face of a government and a mainstream media drifting ever further from reality is beginning to be discussed by relatively mainstream reporters and academics now, two years after That Terrible Day…

… if the idea that the media don’t tell the truth is new to you, or (as so many of us found) difficult to convey to others, try reading The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne.

But, having had two years to get over the reeling horror of what happened to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, most socialist activists are probably beginning to see, as my comrades do, that we already knew we’d been beaten by 2019. We’d run the campaign in a state of denial, based on the fact that the media had spent the last two years telling us we’d lost when in fact we hadn’t, and so we completely failed to acknowledge reality when we really had lost.

So what happened to real socialism? Why could we not see the wood for the trees? There’s hardly anyone in the Labour Party who doesn’t claim to be a socialist: from the very best paid and most privileged members of the plap (as we took to calling the Parliamentary Labour Party after some of our more bruising experiences), right on down to the lowliest of activists out on the street between DWP maulings, ‘the grassroots’ helping out with Unite Community campaigns against Sports Direct and other exploiters — all insist that they are socialists. How can so many, so very different people, people absolutely at each other’s throats, think they’re socialists?

Socialism A

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of socialism – or at least, there’s socialism, and a very convincing faux socialism that often takes its place. I found a good, clear definition of the distinction in Snakes and Ladders by Selina Todd. The subtitle of the book is ‘The Great British Social Mobility Myth’. Todd makes extensive use of the personal accounts collected in endeavours such as the Mass Observation Project

She demonstrates a change, over the generations, in the publicly perceived aims of socialism. She looks at early socialist projects, pre-Second World War, which tended to be local subscription schemes, co-ops where communities banded together to solve problems and help each other, thus reducing their reliance on the ‘power people’, the oppressors. Then she looks at later ones which tended to be more individualistic efforts to lift ‘high achievers’ into the middle classes. She follows the developing clash of these two ideas via conflicts in the Workers’ Education Association, over whether their work should centre community education projects for everyone, or whether they should focus on creating scholarships for ‘achievers’.

The problem gradually comes into focus. Clearly, lifting individuals out of the oppressed, working classes into the middle classes isn’t really socialism – you can’t lift everyone into the middle class. If that is your aim, what does ‘the middle’ rest on? Who is going to scrub the floors and wipe the arses? Do we discuss this thorny issue, or do we close our eyes and trumpet ever louder the catch-phrases of socialism B….?

Socialism B

Tony Blair was one of the more notorious proponents of ‘meritocracy’, enthusiastically espousing ‘equality of opportunity’, and mixing meritocracy with the wide-ranging benefits which generally come with a Labour government in a very enticing agenda which, for one-and-a-half terms of office, successfully covered a creeping privatisation that left us with our hospitals deeply in debt, school grounds being sold off and a range of other troubling developments including the over-riding horror of the Iraq War. A loss of socialist vision that more than justified Margaret Thatcher’s statement that New Labour was her greatest achievement.

But Blair was a socialist – and initially a very popular one. What happened?

A good source of detail on how ‘meritocracy’ works is Miseducation, by Diane Reay, which surveys stats and experiences of UK education from the very start of mass education, and discovers an unchanging strategy of using the majority of children as a buffer (collateral damage is the term she uses), the contrast that allows those bright achievers to be ‘top of the pile’. There were only ever so many grammar school places back in the 11-plus days, and middle class parents were always good at making sure their children got them. The few working class people who clawed their way into grammar schools often felt lost and defeated when they got there, cut off from their working class roots, not quite good enough for the alternatives… Comprehensives looked, for a while, like a solution to that but there was, eternally, the private school system sitting on top, limiting their efficacy; and even within those comprehensives, streaming systems recreated that hierarchical ladder for the ‘achievers’ to climb… and the corresponding snakes for others to slide down.

The now-proliferating academy businesses appear to be even more focused on this idea, with their competitive, motivational, aspirational straplines, and their quiet assurances to teachers that no-one will have to handle more than one of those problematic set 3 classes, where the kids all seem to have SEND or mental health issues: the latter translates, in some opinions, to kids who are angry, depressed and/or distressed – the ‘collateral damage’ – the necessary foil of the class system.

Those kids need rescuing – or they need to learn to rescue themselves. Is that a skill they’re going to learn in those schools?

Corbyn – a return to socialism A?

It was extremely hard to sell Corbyn’s version of socialism to everyone – it sold itself to pretty much everyone who actually met him but, strangely enough, it didn’t get an honest airing in the mainstream media, and the high-salaried, high-achievers in the Labour Party didn’t take to it too well. Nevertheless, team Corbyn kept him out on the road, meeting people in their tens of thousands, and good instincts led many, many people to recognise that the socialism of Jeremy Corbyn was something different, something that provided redress – as some analysts noted, Corbyn’s acknowledgement of ‘the left behind’ was key.

Corbyn wasn’t cheering people on to ‘rise above’ the herd, he was constantly calling for them to ‘stick together’, to ‘build the community’ and make socialism happen.

The one big Momentum call-out

Initially, the organisation Momentum became the instrument of the mass movement. When the plap made their first major attempt to nip Socialism A in the bud (an exercise now known as ‘the chicken coup’) they found the House of Commons surrounded by tens of thousands of – well, people – just people – responding to Momentum’s call to hold the line for Corbyn, chanting ‘for the many, not the few’ and ‘no-one left behind’.

It worked.

But

It was instinctive, it was right (I think) but, as many lefty commentators said after the Terrible Day (13th December 2019) the majority of the movement lacked background knowledge, it lacked political nous, and was completely un-leadable. It scared the heck out of Jon Lansman who, at that time, considered himself to be in charge of Momentum. It gets very personal here but it seems to me that from that day on, Lansman back-tracked furiously, aiming for his own natural home which was most definitely Socialism B. His methods came from the secret weapon of the right at the time – Identity Politics.

The Politics of Divide and Rule

Where Socialism A always centres the class struggle, aiming to unravel the ‘meritocracy’ view in favour of community and class action, Socialism B will reply with divide and rule – sometimes centring the ‘high achievers’ to create an elite, other times centring a minority competing in ‘the oppression Olympics’ – for example, look at who was getting kicked out of the Labour Party during the struggle to get Corbyn into number ten – top of the list was Jewish Socialists – especially black and female Jewish socialists – accused of anti-semitism.

Were there really hordes of anti-semites in the Labour Party, or was this an attempt to use one section of the Jewish community against another? And then came the leaks, and the signs of racism and sexism running through backroom party bureaucracy.

It was Momentum that scuppered the CLGA left slate system that the new, mass membership relied on to compensate for our lack of political experience and literacy, and it was Momentum in general, Jon Lansman in particular – who did the damage, first by throwing the anti-semitism bomb at Pete Wilsman in the middle of an NEC election, and more recently by making sectarian demands of CLGA candidates that exacerbate the divide between gender-critical feminism and the trans rights movement.

Lots of lobbying or lots of people?

How do you heal those divides? The two styles of socialism can be seen in the choice all political movements make between foregrounding community- and movement-building or foregrounding lobbying. The lack of experience of many of us newcomers to party politics led to an expectation that if only we could get our particular case in front of Corbyn or MacDonnell, all the problems would fall away. Many sections of the movement attempted to build and lobby, but there was always too much belief in the ‘Corbyn will sort it out’ feeling. I suspect that it is, even now, slowing the development of the current Corbyn Project, as too many sign-ups sit at home waiting for Jeremy to work his magic.

It was the failure of that misplaced faith that led us all to slump into despair as the election results came in on 13th December 2019, and Corbyn resigned as party leader. It was the same failure of faith that led so many campaigns to wander off down their separate, and often antagonistic, paths since then. Failure of faith in ourselves as a collective. It’s time to pull those paths back together – we need to recognise truth speakers such as Corbyn, to listen to them and honour them, but not expect them to work the magic. We need to know that we can campaign side-by-side with people of different opinions, but we need to be politically literate enough to know whether they are real socialists. I don’t know if the Labour Party itself is any use to us now, but nor do I expect Mr Magic Corbyn to start a new party.

What we need to do is a lot more homework, then we need to get out there and make sure more people really understand what happened, and what is happening. Keep the conversations going until enough people understand… and as so often happens, I was just trying to work out how to say all that, when I realised someone just had.

I’m not sure how long the share token for ‘The Truth’ will stay live but, if it’s stopped working when you get to this point, try searching for Caitlin Johnstone and the-problem-isnt-human-nature…

The Truth

And if you’re a reader, please try these….

Snakes and Ladders

The Assault on Truth

Miseducation

… and then get to work, discussing all this stuff with anyone and everyone, until enough people know how to spot what is, and is not, socialism, and how to do it.

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Uncategorized

On Trying Gently to Explain

Speaking across the generations can be challenging to say the least. At 18, I found most over 40s clueless, condescending and often downright rude. Having just passed 60, I am beginning to notice for the first time that most under 40s are…

Well, let’s not perpetuate the mirage. I saw this meme today you see, about trying to explain to the parents that the under 40s are feeling pretty bad…

Like most of the people I know of my age, I feel deeply worried about what the up-coming generations are going through. Have you noticed how many grey heads there are amongst the socialist and environmentalist activists? You’d have to look on zoom now – marches and camps sadly are… Anyway – we do that because we’re deeply worried about what up-coming generations are going through, and how on earth their children…

Trouble is, many of them seem to be judging us because we haven’t given up and sometimes, we even have the audacity to be cheerful, and make like victory is in sight.

That’s the spirit…

Okay yes, there are some people who have no patience, no staying power – look at the numbers who gave up on the Corbyn thing when we lost the election – but you know, lots didn’t. They’re still looking for a way.

Okay yes, there are some people who don’t realise the gravity of the environmental situation, the austerity situation, or even the virus situation – though I should think the queues of ambulances and hearing of the deaths of actual friends and acquaintances must be catching up with most of them by now – but there are also masses of people – unimaginable numbers of people – who in their own way, know we are hanging by a thread, know the chances of the generation after next are a million to one – but who are still seeking answers, and still have an annoying habit of being cheerful sometimes.

Thank the gods! Thank the extraordinary human spirit and its ever-seeking survival skills!

A million to one chance

The point is, we knew. My generation lived through the Cold War Era. We saw the nuclear attack drills, and we saw what a hopeless, helpless fudge they were. We saw the mad, mad, impossible over-kill of the nuclear weapons build up – we thought it pretty unlikely we’d survive to our 30s, let alone old age.

We’d read the Silent Spring. We knew about leper ships. We engaged. Many of us. Millions of us. And we’re engaged still and we’re sometimes cheerful still because you see, if that million to one chance comes up, it won’t just drop a happy ending in our laps – it’ll be a chink of light. Yes, imagine, you’re 50 metres under and that chink of light is impossibly small, impossibly far-off. If you are going to make anything of it, you’ll need a horde of lively minds, able bodies and yes – cheerful people – to fight your way through.

We knew. We don’t give up. We have cheerful days. Don’t knock it.

2008

Midnight Oil 

1974

Hudson Ford

1965

Barry McGuire 

1959

Tom Lehrer 

The Struggle goes on. Don’t knock it. Notice the good things that happen. Good things happened even in the trenches you know. Be a shame to miss ’em, just in case we don’t come through.

Sandy Denny

I think I’ll dedicate this to Mick Brooks, one of the 80 000 + who died too soon. A life dedicated to The Struggle.