Communist, internationalist and fighter for women’s rights: the legacy of Sylvia Pankhurst

Communist, internationalist and fighter for women’s rights: the legacy of Sylvia PankhurstSylvia Pankhurst: Everything is possible

Produced by WORLDWrite,

directed by Ceri Dingle and Viv Regan, 2011 DVD: £20, plus p+p

‘To British manhood: comrades, how much longer will you be willing to fight, work and pay for the war which the British capitalists are making on the working people of other countries?’ (Sylvia Pankhurst, Workers’ Dreadnought, May 1920)

After another International Women’s Day was marked in Britain by corporate lunches and lectures, with little to no talk of the capitalist crisis affecting women worldwide, the documentary Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is possible proves the necessary antidote. It details Sylvia’s committed anti-imperialist, anti-racist, feminist politics, and her dedication to building a mass movement with working class women and men. It touches on her unique, and overlooked, contribution to communism and the politics of class struggle. We can learn crucial and inspiring lessons from her opposition to inequality, war, patriarchy and racism, and their cause – the system itself.


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Women: hardest hit by the cuts

Women are experiencing the brunt of the public sector cuts. Benefit cuts will hit women doubly hard as on average they account for twice as much of women’s income as men’s. More women will lose their jobs in the public sector as they make up the majority of the workforce. The already limited public services that women rely on most will be cut further. Driven out of employment and education back into the home, women will be expected to care for children and for those for those for whom the state will no longer provide. If left unopposed, the next round of cuts will force more women to provide this unpaid, largely unrecognised, isolating domestic work and care for longer hours, all with less support.

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement announced the extension of a 1% cap on public sector pay rises for a further two years. This is a pay cut for 4.6 million women and 2.6 million men. He also announced cuts to child tax credits costing women £908m. 73% of the combined cost of these measures will be borne by women. 94% of child benefit recipients are women; this is to be frozen for three years.


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Women, the crisis and the cuts - Cuba shows the alternative


In a time of global crisis, Cuba represents a unique reality for women. Understanding that sexual equality is necessarily bound with economic and political equality, women's emancipation is crucial to the ongoing process of revolution. The huge grassroots political involvement of the people, and the planned economy driven by their needs, means that society actively works to challenge sexism and inequality. Accordingly, Cuba stands out in The World Economic Forum's study on gender disparity and economics - despite its small economy and the blockade which attempts to strangle development, its women rank highly in health, education, political and economic equality. The index shows Cuba's gender disparity has improved; Britain, despite its imperialist wealth, is only four places above Cuba, and has fallen in ranking.


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A victory for abortion rights…for now

On 7 September, the latest attack on abortion provision in Britain was defeated when MPs voted against amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill proposed by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries. These amendments, originally jointly proposed with Labour’s former welfare minister Frank Field, would have stripped organisations that provide abortion services of their role in offering impartial counselling to women.

Dorries argues that non-statutory organisations such as the British Pregancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes, non-profit charities that provide the majority of abortions in Britain – have a ‘vested interest’ in persuading women to have abortions as part of some wider, sinister ‘abortion industry’. This is nonsense. No one in her campaign has been able to present any evidence that BPAS and Marie Stopes have done anything other than provide impartial advice, as they are required to do.


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Speech to International Working Women’s Day panel discussion

international womens day

5 March  2005

I would like to bring the greetings of my organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Group, to this meeting in celebration of International Working Women’s Day.  This speech is in three parts.  Firstly, I am going to talk about specific struggles of working women in this country during the past 20 years; secondly, I am going to say something about women prisoners; finally I am going to explain a little about the political stance of my organisation.

1. The past 25 years in Britain since that very unrevolutionary woman, Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, came to power have seen a huge change in the social structure of the country.  Previously, rich because of its imperialist plunder; the state could guarantee a sizeable section of the working class lifelong employment, affordable housing and welfare provision. Thatcher announced there was ‘no such thing as society’, only individuals and made it clear she was declaring war on the working class.


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George Galloway, Respect and abortion

A recent article in The Independent on Sunday (4 April 2004) quotes George Galloway as saying that he is ‘strongly against abortion. I believe life begins at conception and therefore unborn babies have rights. I think abortion is immoral...I believe in God. I have to believe that the collection of cells has a soul’. This reactionary position will be a surprise to many people but in fact it is consistent with his record as a Labour MP. The completely reactionary Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child lauds him as a ‘courageous fighter’ in defence of the ‘unborn child’.


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