Archive for the ‘Women’s rights & women’s liberation’ Category

Rio Turbio miners

by Nicolás Daneri (Feb 20, 2018)

In the recent midterm elections in Argentina, the right-wing Cambiemos party of President Mauricio Macri was able to secure the largest share of votes. As a result, the elections were widely interpreted as political support for his austerity program. However, shortly thereafter, his government saw a rapid dwindling in popular support when it passed a major pension reform. The proposed law was met by a major resistance movement this past December. Although it succeeded in passing the pension reform, the government paid a high price for its offensive and had to retreat from its initial plan to pass a labor reform law as well.

20,000 attended election rally of the Left & Workers Front in Nov 2016

During the summer months, when there’s generally very little political activity in Argentina, the government continued to lay off workers in the public sector, and unemployment rose in the private sector as well. This summer though, in almost every industry, workers fought back with strikes, roadblocks, and marches, in stark contrast to the previous year in which the majority of the layoffs were carried out without a fightback from workers. Some of the most important struggles this summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) include the miners’ strike of Rio Turbio and the strike by workers of the Posadas Hospital. These actions point to a growing political unrest among the working class

Because the government wasn’t able to push through a (more…)


Constance de Markievicz, in Irish Citizen Army uniform

by Philip Ferguson

Today (Feb 4) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the first woman elected to the British parliament! This was in the general election of December 1918, at the end of WW1. And no, she was not a Tory reactionary, but an Irish revolutionary – Constance Markievicz.

She was in jail at the time in London.

She had been second-in-command lof the insurrectionary forces at Stephen’s Green during the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin and, among other things, performed valuable sniper duties; after the surrender she was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death, commuted to penal servitidue for life on account of her being a woman.

The British were subsequently forced to release the prisoners, from the end of 1916 to mid-1917. Considered one of the hardest of the hard-core, she was in the very last group of prisoners to be released, returning to an ecstatic welcome in Dublin.

In May 1918 she was arrested for sedition and again imprisoned in England. It was here that she ran for parliament.

She stood on a platform of independence and radical social change in Ireland and not taking her seat at Westminster if elected.

In that election, 73 seats were won by people who said they wouldn’t take their seat at Westminster if elected.  A majority of them were in prison or ‘on the run’.

(These people won a majority of the seats in (more…)

by Don Franks

Almost always, news of a new baby coming brings great joy.

Then the anticipation, the preparation, the anxiety and finally the miracle of a wonderful new arrival.

In recent months I’ve been privileged to share this wonder with three young family friends. Watching the wee tot sleep, touching the tiny hands, sharing a first real little smile. It’s no wonder that the Christian religion has got so much mileage from its symbol of Madonna and child, because almost always, human birth is a joyous event.

Not in every case. There are accidental, unwanted pregnancies, imposed pregnancies and arrivals into a family already too desperately poor to support the existing brood.

New Zealand’s most famous anticipated baby will not be born into (more…)

Jacinda Ardern & Clarke Gayford: first-ever privileged, First World, white, middle class couple to have a baby

by Susanne Kemp

Forget the war and repression in Syria.  Forget the massive protests against the theocratic regime in Iran.  Forget mass hunger and poverty across the Third World.  Forget the millions of refugees.  Forget the women (and men) of the world labouring for a pittance in horrendous conditions in factories, mines and other workplaces across the Third World.

Jacinda Ardern’s ability to ‘work’ and give birth is very much a middle/upper class privilege built, in part, on the super-exploitation of the Third World; but don’t expect liberals to talk about this

For the NZ ‘mainstream media’ none of this counts for much.

You see, Jacinda Ardern and Clarke Gayford are going to have a baby.  Judging by the gush it would appear that they are the first-ever highly-privileged First World, white middle class couple to be doing so.

No First World, privileged, white, middle class people have ever had a baby before.

Presumably this is why TV broadcaster Hillary Barry tweeted, (more…)

This is the first in what will be an occasional series of articles we are running about specific revolutionary women; we say ‘occasional’ simply because they won’t be daily or weekly.  This article was not written to be part of this series; Yassamine wrote it for a different purpose, but we thought it was a fascinating article and so we’re re-blogging it to kick off the series.

by Yassamine Mather

One hundred thousand women demonstrate in Tehran against the imposition of the veil by the theocratic regime in 1979

Taher Ahmadzadeh, a veteran member of Iran’s Jebheh Melli (National Front – Mossadegh’s political coalition) and the Freedom Movement, who became briefly the governor of Khorassan province after the Iranian revolution of 1979, died on November 30 in Mashad, northern Iran. Most of the Persian language press inside and outside the country published lengthy obituaries. He had been imprisoned both during the Pahlavi period and after the Islamic Revolution and the obituaries dedicated paragraphs to his sons Massoud and Majid, founders of the Sazman-e Cherikha-ye Fadayee-ye Khalgh, OIPFG, who were executed by the Shah’s regime, and his youngest son, Mojtaba, a sympathizer of another communist organisation, who opposed armed struggle, killed at the age of 25 by the Islamic Republic.

However almost all of these obituaries failed to mention his daughter Mastoureh Ahmadzadeh, who is alive, who was a political prisoner of the Shah’s regime and became a leading figure of OIPFG, a member of its central committee. The editors, journalists and commentators who remind us everyday how they have become ‘feminists’, the very same people who complain daily about the lack of women ministers in Rouhani’s government (as if that would make any difference to a government led by a reformist Shia cleric) wrote about Taher Ahmadzadeh and his three sons but not a word about his daughter. It is almost as if she doesn’t exist.

This short piece, based on my memories of Mastoureh (comrade Azam) in Kurdistan and later in France, is to (more…)

Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.


This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)