Women's Liberation

Lehman Sisters?

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A steady stream of recent articles blames "macho behaviour" for the financial crisis. Judith Orr challenges the assumption that women would do it better.

Would the economic crisis have happened if women had been in charge - if instead of Lehman Brothers it had been Lehman Sisters? This has been a recurring argument in the pages of analysis of recent events.

Beyond the Palin effect

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I was rather surprised when someone said to me recently, "You almost have to admire Sarah Palin."

My surprise came from the fact that the person announcing his half admiration for the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the US elections was a longstanding socialist and anti-war activist. He certainly would not approve of Palin's creationist religious beliefs, nor of her recent chant of "Drill, baby, drill" as she urged more oil drilling in Alaska to cut the price of petrol.

O is for oppression

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One of the common accusations thrown at Marxism by others in the movement is that it is "economistic" - it reduces everything to the economy and class relations and therefore can't deal adequately with questions of oppression.

On the surface this can seem a reasonable point.

Oppression doesn't mirror class but cuts across it. All women suffer from sexism, whether an Indonesian factory worker or a highly paid (though not as highly paid as her male counterparts) London City trader. A factory worker's experience of her oppression, however, is very different to that of a rich woman.

Abortion: is this the moment?

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Imagine living where the prime minister believes in creationism, the chair of your parliament's health committee believes "it is the duty of government to implement god's law" and the chair of the education committee calls for creationism to be taught alongside evolution in science classes. That place is Northern Ireland (NI).

Gordon Brown has been making deals with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) fundamentalists who hold these views to block abortion rights for women in NI, in return for its nine MPs voting for 42-day detention for "terrorist" suspects.

The uprising of the 30,000

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Migrant workers have historically found it difficult to organise and fight. John Newsinger writes of a furious strike over conditions in New York, 1909, waged by newly organised migrant women garment workers who fought bitterly to the brink of victory, despite hired thugs and conservative union leaders

The Local 25 branch of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) had some 2,000 members working in the shirtwaist trade in 1909. They were mainly young Jewish women, immigrants from Tsarist Russia. On the evening of 22 November the branch organised a mass rally at New York's Cooper Union hall. The turnout took the organisers completely by surprise. Thousands came, both union members and non-members, and overspill meetings had to be arranged hastily in another half a dozen halls.

K is for Kollontai

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The success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 enabled the radical ideas on women's liberation that had been germinating in pre-revolutionary times to develop, and be widely discussed and materially embodied in the real world.

A revolution turns all preconceived notions upside down. When profit held sway in the old society, it suppressed the needs and desires of the masses from whom it was extracted. These very needs and desires were to become the motive force of production in the new socialist society, both satisfying material requirements and, even more fundamentally, nourishing the human personality.

Abortion: their morals and ours

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We need to get ready for a big battle over abortion rights, argues Judith Orr, and the deluge of moral outrage about women's lives that will accompany it

The right is seriously mobilising around the issue of abortion. Tory leader David Cameron has stated that he wants to bring the limit down to 20 or 21 weeks and Tory ex-minister Anne Widdecombe has been taking her "pro-life" road show around the country in an effort to rally the troops. This is not something a Tory has been confident enough to do on any issue for many years - though, thanks to local activists, these meetings did not happen without noisy protests outside.

Solidarity, struggle and resistance

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Iraqi-born writer and activist Haifa Zangana talks to Judith Orr about the struggle of Iraqi women still fighting for the liberation of their country.

Your new book, City of Widows, looks at the history of Iraq and in particular the role of women, which is often hidden in official histories.

During the period of Islam and the emergence of Islam and the building of the Islamic empire, there were always women leaders, poets - quite influential women in society.

Prominent women are more common at times of expansion, and when there have been struggles for national liberation women have been there, and have been quite powerful. So it varies from one period to another historically.

Women were braver than a hundred men

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Resistance to the neoliberal policies of the Egyptian government has led to a strike wave involving thousands of workers. Anne Alexander describes how women have played a key role in the struggle and Farah Koubaissy visits a tobacco factory where one woman, Hagga Aisha, has led the strikes.

"Egypt: open for business" runs a headline on the Egyptian government's investment website. World Bank officials appear to agree. Last October they named Egypt "Top Performer in Doing Business 2008". Economic growth is strong, averaging 7 percent per year over the past three years. At the urging of the International Monetary Fund, the government began a privatisation programme in 1991 which has led to the sell-off of hundreds of state-run firms, while cuts in corporation taxes have made life easier and more profitable for both foreign and domestic investors.

Abortion rights

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When even David Steel, the man most closely associated with the 1967 Abortion Act, has been quoted as saying there are "too many abortions" it is clear that abortion rights cannot be taken for granted.

This month the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will continue its passage through the Lords with anti-abortion politicians proposing amendments to it. There may also be amendments that make access to early abortions easier, which should be welcomed, but not at the expense of a cut in the time limit. Less than 2 percent of abortions happen after 20 weeks but the women affected are some of the most vulnerable. Abortion Rights has organised a public meeting: Defend the Abortion Act, Wednesday 16 January, 7.30pm, Committee room 10, House of Commons, nearest tube Westminster.

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