Saturday, June 13, 2009

The following is from the A-Infos website, and it concerns the recent attempt to hold a British wide anarchist conference. It happened, but what it will lead to is doubtful. The "generalist" nature of the conference says to Molly that it was nothing but a social gathering. Not that this is not valuable in itself, but its limitations should be duly noted. Anyways. here's the story.
Britain, Anarchist movement conference 2009 - anarcha-feminist intervention:

A group of anarcha-feminists interrupted the Sunday afternoon plenary session of the conference. They spoke about the problem of sexism in both capitalist society and the 'movement', and projected a short film on the subject.

---- You can also read the full statement, watch the film, and find out more, at

---- This is what was said.

---- “We make no pretence. This is a conference by and for anarchists. And by anarchists, we mean those opposed to the state, all forms of nationalism, capitalism, sexual/race/gender oppression and all forms of exploitation and domination,” Anarchist Movement Conference 09 Call Out

We have taken this space and projected this short film to show how we see sexism in ‘the movement’ and sexism in capitalist society. We have covered our faces in the same way we might do against the state and its agents – inspired by the tradition of our militant sisters who took back male-dominated stages, and political spaces.

We expect hostility, intimidation and greater surveillance after our action. Covering up makes it easier to communicate. And we know that our message is much bigger than the messenger herself.

The following text is our response to the four themes of the conference.
MOVEMENT or why we aren’t one
No matter how much we aspire to be ‘self-critical’ there is a clear lack of theorising and concrete action around sexism, homophobia and racism in the anarchist movement. We do not feel that the content and structure of the conference deal with gender and we’re tired of asking for space – we’re taking it ourselves.

You want to talk about history? Let’s stop pretending that feminism is a short blip in the history of political struggles. The feminism you know may be the one that has been dominated by white middle-class liberal politics – NOT the struggles and pockets of revolutionary resistance missing from our political pamphlets and ‘independent’ media. The feminism of Comandanta Yolanda, of bell hooks, of Anzaldua, of Mbuya Nehanda, of Angela Davis, of Rote Zora, of Mujeres Libres

CLASS or is anybody out there?
We are all oppressed by the class system, but there is nobody ‘out there’ who isn’t also oppressed by white supremacy, imperialism, heterosexism, patriarchy, ableism, ageism... Pretending these systems don’t exist or can be subsumed into capitalist oppression, doesn’t deal with the problem, it just silences those people most oppressed by them, and allows for the continuing domination of these systems over our lives.

We are tired of being told that anarchists don’t need to be feminists, because ‘anarchism has feminism covered’. This is just a convenient way of forgetting the reality of gender oppression, and so ignoring the specifics of the struggle against it
RESISTANCE or are we futile?
If the anarchist movement doesn’t recognize the power structures it reproduces, its resistance will be futile. For as well as fighting sexism ‘out there’ we must fight sexism ‘in here’ and stop pretending that oppressive systems disappear at the door of the squat or the social center. Only a movement that understands and fights its own contradictions can provide fertile ground for real and effective resistance.

Ask yourselves this – do you believe sexism exists within the movement? When a woman comrade says she’s experienced sexual abuse or assault from a male comrade – what do you think? That it’s an individual or an isolated case? Or that it can happen – and disproportionately to women – because there is a system which allows it to develop and gives it life? Can we honestly say that our own autonomous spaces do not play a part in upholding this system?

Ask yourselves this – Why do fewer women speak in meetings? Because they think less? What is the gender of the factory worker? Why do more women do the washing up and run creches at meetings/events? What is the gender of the carer at home?

Now tell us if you believe sexism exists: tell us why men rape; why more women are battered than men; why more women are used by the state to do free and unwaged work. Tell us – are you a feminist?

We believe that in the anarchist movement, the strongest evidence of sexism lies in the choice we’re told to make between ‘unity’ and what-they-call ‘separatism’, between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Fuck that! We refuse to be seen as stereotypes of ‘feminists’ you can consume – like fucking merchandise in the capitalist workplace.
IDEAS INTO REALITY and what’s in between?
There will be no future for the anarchist movement if it doesn’t also identify as an anarcha-feminist movement. Anarcha-feminist organisational structures must exist within the movement to make anarcha-feminism an integral part of it. And you don’t need to identify as a woman to be an anarcha-feminist – every anarchist should be able to participate in the struggle against sexism.

The state’s incursion into our private lives and the relationship between sexuality and productivity from which it profits affects people of all genders. The gender binary system violently allocates us roles on the basis of our anatomy. A refusal to accept even these basic precepts will be a great hindrance to the movement.

You ask, ‘Can we find common cause despite our differences?’. We will only find common cause if we recognize that our differences are structured by numerous oppressive systems, and together fight to end each of these systems, wherever we find them.

Our feminisms must be plural, they must be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic. Our inspiration must come from the actions of feminists who have helped self-identified women reach revolutionary consciousness.

Our feminisms must be revolutionary.
Final word
You can pretend we didn’t come here, pretend nothing was said(That is probably what will happen-Molly).

You can purposefully misunderstand us.

Or you can ask yourselves why we came, what we meant, and whether we’ll come back again.
This item screams for comment. First and foremost what the feminist comrades says is true, obviously true, in a movement that values militance and 'showing off", a movement defined by confrontation rather than construction. You can get into a whole world of yabba yabba about female and male values , but the "average" is that women will be more 'constructive" in the long run. Some have styled this as "conservative". If that is so at least two cheers for conservatism.

But then we get to the "meat" of the criticism. Long term readers of this blog will be fairly familiar with my emphasis on "practicality". This is a specific instance of this. I hope that nobody doubts the importance of feminism in anarchist politics. If one is unconvinced one can examine the composition of the "working class" and note that underpaid sections of it are quite often female in composition. One can also examine the "non-class" situations which females often find themselves in, situations where they experience what is fashionably called "oppression". All this is a given, and anarchist organizations (though it is extremely doubtful if a gathering is an "organization) should take note of.

But I will ask the following question. What was the point of what was done over at Britain ? Were any practical proposals advanced that would make the actions make the anarchist movement better ? God knows that the situation of women begs for such proposals. How would they relate to anarchism ? Do we "temporally" support social democratic reforms ? Do we have ANY other proposals for action beyond (shudder) doing pop-psychology and promoting guilt amongst anarchists ?
Feminism is so obviously important, from both a "class' perspective and otherwise that it is hard to deny its relevance. What can be said, however, is what actions actually led to some sort of progress. Personally I would give the actions in Britain a grade of zero, and not just because they cite the Stalinist Angela Davis as a "inspiration"(ahh-how many millions of corpses will so-called "liberation" cost?). Disruption for the sake of disruption. How typical of too much of anarchism today! Perhaps we should say that "feminism" is too important to be left to the feminists, but that would violate my own faith in the ability of ordinary people to find a rational way to advance their interests. I hope that the British feminists find such a way soon, rather than doing theatre for a marginal movement.


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