A tale of two feminisms – the fight against women’s oppression today

CHRISTINE THOMAS reviews two recent books by authors coming from different feminist perspectives and asks: what strategy is needed in the struggle to end violence against women, sexism and oppression in the new era?

Daring to Hope, by Sheila Rowbotham

Published by Verso, 2021, £20

Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation, by Julie Bindel

Published by Constable, 2021, £16-99

One effect of the Covid pandemic has been to shine a spotlight on gender inequality in capitalist society and on violence towards women in particular, one of the most extreme manifestations of women’s oppression today. Unfortunately, it is one that many women will face at some time in their lives. One in four will experience domestic abuse and one in seven will be raped. On average, two women a week are killed by a current or ex-partner. Most women don’t feel safe from violence, abuse or sexual harassment whether at home, at work or in public spaces, including on social media. A staggering 97% of women report that they have experienced sexual harassment. It is therefore no surprise that violence against women has been the catalyst for a whole number of movements recently; in Britain most notably following the murder of Sarah Everard in South London in 2021.

There were many factors that combined together to generate the outpouring of outrage when Sarah was killed: the fact that her murderer was a serving police officer; that she was killed following a Covid lockdown which had seen a significant increase in domestic killings of women and calls to police and helplines – exposing just how prevalent domestic abuse is in society and how escape routes have been undermined by austerity; and the fears of young women that they are unsafe, and that society doesn’t  take their safety seriously, even blaming the way they look or behave for the violence and harassment they experience.

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The truth about Welsh Labour

The Welsh Labour governments could have rallied a whole nation behind the Welsh working class in struggle against austerity but instead, over 22 years of devolved government, have implemented essentially just a different variant of neo-liberal policies. DAVE REID reviews a new book revealing the truth about ‘the Welsh Way’.

The Welsh Way: Essays on Neoliberalism and Devolution

Edited by Daniel Evans, Kieron Smith and Huw Williams

Published by Parthian Books, 2021, £10

Ever since the first devolved Welsh assembly in 1999 the idea has been promoted by many on the left that Welsh Labour, and the Welsh governments led by it, were in some way different and more left wing than the UK Labour Party and UK Labour government.

This idea was most clearly expressed in 2002 by first minister Rhodri Morgan who declared that there was “clear red water” separating Welsh Labour from Blairite UK Labour – that Welsh Labour was pursuing more socialistic polices than the Blairites. He claimed he was implementing “21st century socialism – a Welsh recipe”. The ‘Welsh Way’.

Many times trade union leaders and the UK Labour left have pointed to the Welsh Labour governments as an example of ‘another way’ for a Labour government to operate. Even Jeremy Corbyn regularly extolled the achievements of the Welsh Labour government under the current first minister Mark Drakeford, deepening the illusion that in some way Wales was not as afflicted with austerity and privatisation as England. John McDonnell said of the recent co-operation agreement agreed between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru: “Labour’s Mark Drakeford secures a radical programme for Wales that contains many of the policies set out in Labour’s 2019 election Manifesto, charting clear red water between Welsh Labour and the Tories”.

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Kazakhstan’s turmoil

The mass revolt in Kazakhstan at the beginning of this year is unprecedented in this vast Central Asian country. But the explosion of anger did not come out of a clear blue sky, argues CLARE DOYLE. In recent years, workers’ struggles and mass protests against falling living standards have become bolder and more frequent. Further explosions of anger against the oligarchic elite that rules this mineral-rich country are inevitable.

The current president of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokaev, was a grey figure appointed in 2019 by veteran dictator Nursultan Nazarbaev to succeed him. It was widely understood that Tokaev was little more than a puppet of ‘the old man’. But January’s events were to open up deep divisions at the top.

Confronted with a wave of mass protest against the doubling of fuel prices that swept the country, Tokaev moved rapidly to reverse the measure. When there was no sign of the mass movement abating, he switched tack. On 5 January, Tokaev declared a state of emergency. He removed the prime minister from office, suspended the government and arrested the head of security, accusing him of treason.

On the same day, Tokaev called on his erstwhile ‘comrade’, Vladimir Putin, to come to his aid with armed contingents of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Tokaev alleged that the uprising had been provoked by tens of thousands of ‘international terrorists’ (by implication linked with Islamic State) and issued the blood-curdling order to his forces to ‘shoot to kill’ without warning.

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Introduction to Marxism: a new series in Socialism Today

In coming issues, Socialism Today will be publishing the content of five new Introduction to Marxism pamphlets being produced by the Socialist Party. They are based on a series first printed in 2003, but take into account the context of the present period; and a fresh approach has been taken in some sections to the way the ideas are presented. Here we begin with the introduction to the new series, written by JUDY BEISHON.

The Marxist ideas contained in this series of short pamphlets are just as vital today as when they were first brilliantly put forward by Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels in the nineteenth century.

Since then, their clear explanation of the failures of capitalism as a system and why it can’t deliver a decent future for humanity and the planet has stood the test of time. Recent decades have seen worsening economic crises, increased inequality, massive levels of displacement and the growing impact of climate change. More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the failure of capitalist governments to put sufficient resources into public health, whether for preventative measures or treatments.

None of the systemic fault lines that existed at the time of Marx and Engels have been solved. On the contrary, they have further developed and taken a sharper form in many respects. Today we live in a time of immense turmoil, rapidly moving events and great tensions between the world’s ruling classes.

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A true crime story

The Great Post Office Scandal

By Nick Wallis

Published by Bath Publishing Ltd, 2021, £25

Reviewed by Bill Mullins

Just before the start of the new millennium the post office, or to give it its full title, Post Office Limited (POL), introduced a new computer system for all its sub-post offices throughout the country. The system, known as the Horizon system, linked up 40,000 terminals at 18,000 sub-post offices with head office in London and the IT company Fujitsu in Bracknell. 

As the book makes clear, despite all the lies, arrogance and bluster of the Post Office and Fujitsu bosses, the system was fatally flawed. As Nick Willis spells out in great detail, this led to a human tragedy of massive proportions for hundreds (if not thousands, as evidence continues to come out) of sub postmasters. 

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Black Friday and the 1921 miners’ lockout

The Great Betrayal: Black Friday and the 1921 miners’ lockout

By Michael Borodin, translated by Pete Dickenson

Published by Mentmore Press, 2021, £10-99

Reviewed by Ross Saunders

Pete Dickenson has translated into English for the first time The Great Betrayal, written following the events of ‘Black Friday’ in 1921 when conservative trade union leaders betrayed the miners who were battling against a national lockout organised by the private owners of the coal mine industry.

Written shortly after the events which it describes, the book is an attempt by an active participant in the fight for socialism to understand and explain a workers’ struggle of world significance. As the introduction says, “many of the lessons drawn about revolutionary tactics and winning over the working class are very relevant for today’s generation of activists”.

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Letter: Corbyn’s Labour and anti-Semitism

Responding to the review of his book, Labour, Anti-Semitism, and the Destroying of an MP, in the December-January edition of Socialism Today (No.254), Lee Garratt disagrees with Judy Beishon’s insistence that what was needed was a broad fightback by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left leadership against the Blairites. Instead, he says, “a very simple step would have been for the left to call out blatant lies as lies. It is my opinion that, if the left leadership in the PLP had done this consistently, the whole issue would have never gained momentum… no organised ‘fightback’ would have been needed as it would have been a non-issue”. (Socialism Today No.255, February 2022)

I fully agree with Judy’s stance but rather than simply repeat it I will endeavour to add to it within the context of the book’s remit, namely, ‘the anti-Semitism crisis’.

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Letter: The struggle for the NHS

No one under retirement age can remember health in Britain before the NHS. Such as it was, the service consisted of a mishmash of provisions a little like that in the USA today.

People in salaried employment paid into health insurance. There were independent hospitals, funded by charity, including sending nurses out collecting on ‘flag days’. GPs charged for services and for prescriptions, as did dentists and oculists. The National Insurance Act of 1911 had provided for ‘panel patients’. Men and women in work could receive free medical treatment, but not their families and the service was often second class. Anyway, fewer than half the country’s medical practices had signed up to this system. This was the patchwork system that the Labour government of 1945 inherited.

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