Women's Liberation

Engels revisited

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There has been a recent resurgence in writers about women's oppression looking to Marx and Engels for answers, with some arguing he crudely emphasised class at the expense of oppression. Here, Sally Campbell looks at the claims of those writers and defends Engels from the critics

There is a common assertion that Marxism as a set of ideas does not or cannot account for oppression. Some argue, for example, that Marxism is a form of economic determinism that reduces all the complexity of human interaction down to production; because we see workers' revolution as the solution, we see all other struggles - against racism or gender oppression - as subordinate to the struggle in the workplace.

This comes from the right - they want to attack revolutionary ideas, full stop.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

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The death of Adrienne Rich leads Colin Wilson to recall the lesbian feminist politics of the 1980s

Adrienne Rich, who died in March, will be remembered chiefly as a poet who was part of the radical movement.

Her writing recorded the personal impact of the struggles of the 1960s, such as those against racism and the war in Vietnam. Rich came out as a lesbian and depicted love between women in her poems from the mid-70s on. In her seventies she continued to be politically active - opposing the war in Iraq - and to publish poetry.

Marxism and oppression

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Marxists are sometimes accussed of being dismissive of oppression, preferring to emphasise the importance of class. Sara Bennett explains why socialists argue for working class unity as the best way to combat, and ultimately abolish, all forms of oppression

Forty five years ago being gay in Britain was a criminal offence. Today there is a good chance we could see gay marriage legalised by the government before the end of its term in office. This is just one example of many huge strides forward we have achieved in the fight against oppression, whether of LGBT people, women, black people or other oppressed groups.

Women and revolution

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International Women's Day, 8 March, was established by socialists to celebrate the struggles of working class women. We look at how the fight for women's liberation and revolution has gone hand in hand with three great revolutions - in Russia in 1917, Spain in 1936-37 and Egypt today


Egypt 2011-2012

Socialist Review spoke to Dalia Mostafa about the role of women in the revolution in Egypt today

Implanting oppression

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It hasn't been a great winter for the breast implant industry. First the French company Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP) was discovered to be using industrial instead of medical grade silicon to fill its implants.

Now surgeons from the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons want to ban advertising of cosmetic surgery altogether. It is extraordinary that it has taken them so long to notice that there's an ethical problem with surgery being offered with BOGOFs (Buy One Get One Free) and the sickening "yummy mummy makeover" packages of surgery for women shortly after they've given birth, or those particularly aimed at newly-divorced older women.

However we dress, wherever we go...

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Women's dress keeps hitting the headlines and not because of fashion shows either.

At the beginning of April, the French government decreed that all women had to expose their bodies more as the new law against wearing the veil came into effect. Then a few weeks later, a Toronto policeman was telling students to avoid dressing like a "slut" if they wanted to avoid getting raped. In other words, they should cover up more. And thus the "slut walk" protests were born. In the same week Kenneth Clarke pitched in with the view that some rapes are less serious than others and that men who admit to rape should get reduced sentences.

Socialism and women's liberation

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It is 100 years since the first International Women's Day was held in March 1911, yet despite many victories gender inequality still exists today. Sally Campbell argues that only socialism can bring genuine liberation

We live in a time of contradiction. There are more women in positions of power than ever before, yet attitudes to women seem to be going backwards. Angela Merkel is the chancellor of Germany, a country debating imposing a quota for women in the boardrooms. Yet the head of Deutsche Bank, when asked if he supported the proposal, said yes, of course - women would make boardrooms "more colourful and prettier".

They won't divide us

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The female workers among Birmingham's refuse collection staff have been underpaid for years. They rightly put in equal pay claims and claiming for back pay, and this can range from £30,000 to £60,000 each. It should have been dealt with years ago, but it never was.

So the council had two choices: to bring the women's wages back up to our level or drop our money, which is exactly what they have done. It's loaders on the refuse collection side who have lost, ranging up to over £4,000. The drivers on refuse collections didn't lose anything. On my side of the council, the street clean team, it was our drivers who lost money, up to £3,000, but not workers like me who are considered street sweepers. We didn't lose anything.

Made in Dagenham

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Director: Nigel Cole; Release date: 1 October

It's 1968 and 187 female machinists at the huge Ford Dagenham car plant in east London vote for a 24-hour stoppage in a dispute over grading. Employed to sew seat covers in a dilapidated building where the roof leaks, the women decide upon action when they are regraded as unskilled while male colleagues doing similar work are classified as semi-skilled.

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