Introduction for Revolutionary Women Meeting, March 2014

by Louise Gartrel

This speech was written as an introduction to a meeting titled ‘Revolutionary Women: The Story of Rebellion’, which formed part of Scotland FRFI’s ‘Voices of Resistance’ series of events. The meeting was held on 16 March 2014 in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! has called this meeting today to pay tribute to the undeniable contributions which women have made towards the Revolution throughout history and to make the point that the struggle against imperialism and towards a society rid of oppression and exploitation must necessarily have women at the forefront. It must also be recognised that women throughout history have had to face not only oppression from the ruling-classes in terms of the effects of a capitalist system, but have also experienced the domination of, and subjugation to, male privilege within the home and throughout society. And for this, we see that women have had to face the greatest hardship and as a result shown the strongest resistance.

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Women in employment: the statistics that matter

There are 14 million women in work, the highest number since the Office of National Statistics’ records began and a rapid increase from record-breaking unemployment two years ago. The number of women in full-time employment has increased to just over eight million. On paper, things appear well. However, the government’s line that, therefore, ‘more people have the security of a regular wage and can plan for their future’ fails to correspond with a reality which, for many women, means punishing hours, lower wages than men for the same roles and discrimination in the workplace. The huge fluctuations in the number of women in work shows that employment based on the whims of the market cannot be secure.

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Women seeking asylum in racist, sexist Britain

Sexual violence dismissed

Women make up a third of asylum seekers in Britain. 70% have been victims of sexual abuse. In a recent report, of 72 women seeking asylum, 39% said they were persecuted because they were women and 36% for being politically active.[1] Sexual violence is frequently used to punish women who resist oppression.

All asylum seekers arriving in Britain confront an entrenched culture of cynicism and disbelief. Interviews conducted in public rooms by officials behind a screen create a hostile atmosphere; for women it is exacerbated by the fact that their interviewers are usually male. Often, there is a shortage of hard evidence of persecution, as well as understandable discrepancies and late disclosure of abuse. The appeal success rate for women is relatively high at 35-41%, compared with 26% for men, because women are overwhelmingly refused asylum at this early stage.

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Women’s health: rising inequality and resistance

2012 was a year of swingeing cuts to women’s reproductive, sexual and maternal health services in Britain. As the capitalist crisis deepens and inequality rises, the gap widens between those who can afford to make choices about health and reproduction and those who cannot. RACHEL FRANCIS and CAT ALLISON report.

Contraception and sexual health

Contraception and sexual health (CaSH) clinics around the country have been closed over the last two years by health authorities desperate to make cuts. The greatest users of CaSH clinics are young people, ethnic minorities and women from deprived areas. A recent audit by the All-Parliamentary Group on Sexual Health (April 2012) found that up to a third of all women in the UK did not have access to a full range of contraceptive services; clinic opening times have been reduced and posts for trained clinical staff cut. Derbyshire Community Health Service is cutting 20% of its sexual health budget over the next four years, resulting in ‘cuts to contraceptive, STI and menopause services … and cuts to doctors and nurses’. Southampton has lost nine of its 17 sexual health clinics in the recent period.

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Women’s Oppression under Capitalism

Revolutionary Communist 5 November 1976


1. The Capitalist Crisis 

The post-war boom saw the greatest rise in industrial production ever known. Yet the remarkable fact remains that there are less nursery places today than in 1900.

‘In 1900, 620,000 children aged three and four were in school, or 43% of the age group. By 1973 there were fewer than 400,000 children of that age in nursery schools, or a little more than a quarter. Provision is not expected to return to the level achieved at the beginning of the century for another 75 years.’[1]

Capitalism was not able, even with this rise in industrial production, to provide one of the basic requirements for the emancipation of women – adequate nursery provision. What then is in store for women in a period of deepening crisis? Dismissive of all the current calls for equal opportunity, the ruling class makes ‘equality’ serve an end especially its own,

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