Home > Beyond The Fragments > Beyond The Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism (The Women’s Movement and Organizing for Socialism, Notes / References) by Sheila Rowbotham

Beyond The Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism (The Women’s Movement and Organizing for Socialism, Notes / References) by Sheila Rowbotham

1. E.P. Thompson, ‘Outside the Whale’, The Poverty of Theory, Merlin Press, 1978, pp. 31·2

2. Martin Shaw, ‘The Making of a Party?’, Socialist Register 1978, Merlin Press, p. 11 o.

3. Grace C. Lee, Pierre Chalieu and J.R. Johnson, Facing Reality, Correspondence Detroit, 1958, pp. 130-1.

4. Two books which deal with the history of this period do not disentangle the similarities and differences. David Widgery’s The Left in Britain 1956-1968 (Penguin, 1976) has an implicit movement within it towards the emergence of International Socialism as the hidden denouement of the left after the book ends. Nigel Young’s An Infantile Disorder? The Crisis and Decline of the New Left (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977) contrasts the American and British New Left.
He assumes that all aspects of Marxist politics before 1956 in Britain belonged to the dark ages, and sees the fact that the British labour movement had survived during the fifties as a disadvantage which prevented the emergence of a genuinely ‘new’ left. He appears to have little sense of political ideas developing through the clash and interconnection of different traditions in which people can learn to respect one another’s cultural political heritage.

5. Jan O’Malley, The Politics of Community Action, Spokesman, 1977, pp. 25, 29-32.

6. See, for example, Conference of International Socialists on Revolutionary Unity Documents, February 1978. Two of these were published: Richard Kuper, ‘Organisation and Participation’, Sociaiist Review, july/August 1978; Julian Harber, ‘Trotskyism and the IS Tradition’, Revolutionary Socialism, no. 2; Richard Gombin’s The Origins of Leftism (Pelican, 1975) is useful to compare the British left groups with France.

7. Shaw, ‘The Making of a Party’, p. 107, op. cit.

8. See Rose Shapiro and Tricia Deardon,’No Leaders, No Dogmas: Getting Personal about Politics’, The Leveller, no. 14, April 1978.

9. See, for example, Fernando Claudin’s account of the Communist International, The Communist Movement: From Comintem to Cominform, Peregrine, 1975.

10. E.P. Thompson interviewed by Terry Ilott, ‘Recovering the Libertarian Tradition’, The Leveller, no. 22, January 1978, p. 20.

11. F or a discussion of Trotskyism as an identifiable political tradition see Geoff Hodgson, Trotsky and Fatalistic Marxism, Spokesman Books, 1975. Jim O’Brien’s summary of the histories of American Leninist groups makes for an interesting comparison with Britain. Jim O’Brien, ‘American Leninism in the 1970s’, New England Free Press, 1979. (This article originally appeared in the November 1977/February 1978 issue of Radical America. .

12. Rosalind Petchesky, ‘Dissolving the Hyphen. A Report on MarxistFeminist Groups 1-5’, in Zillah R. Eisenstein (ed), Capitalist Patn”archy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1979, p. 386. (For discussion of these problems see the Feminist Review, Red Rag and Scarlet Women.)

13. Felicity Edholm,Olivia Harris and Kate Young, ‘Conceptualising Women’, Critique of Anthropology (Women’s issue), Vol. 3, nos. 9 and 10,1977, p.126.

14. Bea Campbell, ‘Sweets from a Stranger’,Red Rag, no. 13, p. 28.

15. W.B. Yeats, Memoirs (ed. Denis Donogue), London, Macmillan, 1972, p.192.

16. On women’s consciousness and relationship to radical organizations in the past see, for example: Barbara Taylor, ‘The Woman Power’, in Sue Lipschitz, Tean”ng the Veil; Gail Malmgreen, Neither Bread nor Roses: Utopian Feminists and the English Working Class 180~1850, PO Box 450, Brighton, SUssex BNl 8CR, John L. Noyce (60p + postage); Ingrun LaFleur, ‘Adelheid Popp and Working Class Feminism in Austria’, Frontiers. A Journal of Women’s Studies, VoL 1, no. 1, Fall, 1975, University of ‘Colorado; Jill Liddington and Jill Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us, London, Virago, 1978; Temma Kaplan, ‘Other Scenarios, Women and Spanish Anarchism’, in Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (eds.), Becoming Visible: Women in European History, Boston, 1977; Anne Boboff, ‘The Bolsheviks and Working Women, 1905-1920’, Radical America, Vol. 10, no. 3, May-June 1976.

17. Joanna Bomat, ‘Home and Work. A New Context for Trade Union History’, Radical America, Vol. 12, no. 5, September-October 1978, p.54.

18. Dorothy Thompson, ‘Women and Nineteenth Century Radical Politics’, in Ann Oakley and Juliet Mitchell (eds.), The Rights and Wrongs of Women, Penguin, 1974, p. 137.

19. I think now that Women: Resistance and Revolution, in asserting the existing involvement of women in revolutionary movements tends to dismiss the various currents within feminism from the late nineteenth century as well as the involvement of women in non-revolutionary organizations like the Independent Labour Party or the Women’s eo-operative Guild So while it challenges women’s position in socialism, it does not raise the relationship of socialist organizations and the feminist movement. Also, because it was written just as the women’s liberation movement was emerging in Britain (1969-71), it inclines towards seeing the particular understandings of the new contemporary movement as a synthesis with answers that evaded movements in the past. Ten years after, the strengths of past movements are more apparent am! it is possible to have a perspective on the modern movement which enables us to see our weaknesses as well as our gains.

A much clearer example though of the uncritical acceptance of a simple polarity between socialism and feminism appears in an otherwise useful introduction: Barbara Winslow, A Short History of Women’s Liberation Revolutionary Feminism, (USA, Hera Press, no date). Although recently reissued the bulk of this pamphlet dates from the early period of the women’s movement too.

For an example which rushes enthusiastically into the same trap see Anna Paczuska’s ‘The Cult of. Kollontai’, Socialist Review, December 1978/January 1979. This eccentric effort purports to be attacking a ‘cult’ which is the creation of the author’s own imagination, while herself adopting an uncritical stance to Kollontai’s sectarian approach to feminist organizations.

20. Bea Campbell and Sheila Rowbotham, ‘Women Workers and the Class Struggle’, Radical America, Vol. 8, no. 5, September-October 1974, p.63.

21. Richard Kuper, ‘Organisation and Participation’, Socialist Review, July-August 1978, p. 36.

22. Ralph Miliband, ‘The Future of Socialism in England’, The Socialist Register 1977, Merlin Press, p. 50.

23. For a recent example of whooshing see Chris (Super) Harman, ‘For Democratic Centralism’, Socialist Review, July-August 1978, p. 39.

24. Adriano Sofri, Italy 1977-78: Living With an Earthquake, Red Notes pamphlet, no date, p. 95. See also the criticisms made by women in Lotta Continua of the leadership’s response to feminism.

25. ‘Newsreel Five Years On’, Wedge, no. 3, Winter 1978, p. 41.

26. See Reg Groves, The Balham Group: How British Trotskyism Began, Pluto Press, 1974.

27. See, for examples of this, Hal Draper and Anne G. Lipow (eds.), ‘Marxist Women versus Bourgeois Feminism’, The Socialist Register 1976, Merlin Press,179-226. Draper and Lipow seem to be unaware that the political contribution of the women’s movement and the work of feminist historians can enable us to unravel various strands of feminism ‘and quite different relationships between women and radical movements which do not involve setting the leading women in German social democracy upon a pinnacle of correct socialist consciousness. The documents they translate are nonetheless useful for tracing how Marxist positions on ‘The Woman Question’ emerged.

28. Paul Thompson and Guy Lewis, The Revolution Unfinished: A Critique of Trotskyism, Big Flame pamphlet, 1978, p. 23.

29. See Temma Kaplan, Anarchists of Andalusia 1868-1903, Princeton, 1977, pp. 86-7, 135-67. On the contemporary relevance of anarchism for feminist organizing see Lynn Alderson, ‘Anarchism and the Women’s Liberation Movement’, CatcaU, Issue 6,july 1977.

30. See E.P. Thompson, Wl1liam Moms: Romantic to Revolutionary, Merlin Press, 1977, and Emma Goldman, Living My Life, Dover, 1970.

31. See Elizabeth GUrley Flynn, The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography, New York, International PUblishers, 1973,

32. Alix Holt (ed.), Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, Allison and Busby, 1977, p. 208.

33. Ibid., p. 215.

34. See Linda Gordon, Woman’s Body, Womans Right, Penguin, 1977, chapter 9, on birth control and American socialism and syndicalism, and Sheila Rowbotham, A New World for Women: Stella Browne, SOCialIst Feminist, Pluto Press, 1977.

Veronica Beechey in ‘On Patriarchy’, Feminist Review, no. 3, points out this dualism in some contemporary uses of the word.

35. See, for example, Emma Goldman, ‘Woman Suffrage’, in The Traffic in Women and Other Essays on Feminism, \Yith a biography by AIix Kates Shulman, US, Times Change Press, 1970, pp. 51-63; Lily Gair Wilkinson, Revolutionary Socialism and the Women’s Movement, SLP, c.1910; and Women’s Freedom, Freedom Press, c.1914; Bruce Dancis, ‘Socialism and Women in the United States 1900-1917’, Socialist Revolution, no. 27, Vol. 6 no. 1, january-March 1976; Alexandra Kollontai, ‘The Social Basis of the Woman Question’, in AIix Holt (ed.), op. cit.

36. See Sam Aaronovitch, ‘Eurocommunism: A Discussion of Carillo’s Eurocommunism and the State’,Marxism Today, july 1978.

37. See Carl Boggs, ‘Marxism, Prefigurative Communism and the Problem of Workers’ Control’, Radical America, Vol 11, no. 6 and Vol. 12, no. 1, November 1977/February 1978.

38. On the need for the organizations on the left to learn from the women’s movement see: Margaret Coulson, ‘Socialism, Politics and Personal Life’, in ibid.; Frankie Rickford, ‘The Development of the Women’s Movement’, Marxism Today, July 1978; Celia Deacon, ‘Feminism and the IS tradition’, Conference of International Socialists on Revolutionary Unity Documents, February 1978.

The East London Socialist Feminist Group Conference Paper 1978 discussed the need for us to also look at general problems of socialism, not only women’s issues.

39. Bob Cant in Documents, op. cit.

40. Fernando Claudin, Eurocommunism and Socialism, New Left Books, 1978, p. 125.

Margaret Coulson makes the same point in criticizing John Ross’s article on ‘Capitalism, Politics and Personal Life’. He confines women’s liberation to a social sphere, trade unions to the economic and politics to the revolutionary party. She says, ‘his formula blocks us off from understanding the processes involved in the development of politics’. (Margaret Coulson, ‘Socialism, Politics and Personal Life’, Socialist Woman, October 1978.

41. Red Collective, ‘Not So Much a Charter, More a Way of Organising’, mimeograph, 1974. (The Red Collective were a small group of men and women concerned to relate socialism and sexual politics.) This statement is quoted in Barbara Taylor, ‘Classified: Who Are We? Class and the Women’s Movement’, Red Rag, no. 11, p. 24.

42. See. for example, Case Con, Women’s Issue, Spring 1974, and London Educational Collective in Women and Education, no. 2, 1973-4, on Rank and File’s resistance’ to takin gup women’s subordination in education.

43. V.L Lenin, What is to be Done? quoted in Carmen Claudin-Urondo, Lenin and the Cultural Revolution, The Harvester Press, 1977, p. 69.

44. Ibid., p. 71.

See also Lindsay German, ‘Women and Class’, in Socialist Review, no. 5, September 1978, and the reply by some Hackney Socialist Feminists, ‘Feminism Without Illusions’, in Socialist Review, no. 7, November 1978.

45. V.I. Lenin, What is to be Done? quoted in Carmen Claudin-Urondo,

Lenin and the Cultural Revolution, The Harvester Press, 1977, p. 70.

46. Ibid., p. 7 O.

47. Ibid., p. 72.

48. Claudin, The Communist Movement, p. 630, op. cit.

49. E.P. Thompson, ‘The Poverty of Theory’, p. 352, op. cit.

50. Ibid., p.364.

51. Ibid., p. 363.

52. Dorothy Thompson, ‘Women and Nineteenth Century Radical Politics’, op. cit., p. 122.

53. Unofficial Refonn Committee, The Miners’ Next Step, 1912, Pluto, 1973, p. 27.

54. All the left organizations have sought to encapsulate the implications of the women’s movement within the terms of equal rights 01′ concrete demands and campaigns, ‘issue politics’. They were distrustful of the emphasis upon challenging and transforming relationships and upon the COnsequences of this approach to politics. They preferred the language of ‘rights’ and ‘discrimination’ to that of ‘liberation’. Liberation has tended to be suspect and has been sorted away under ‘culture’ which has dubious middle-class connections and might even be a mere creation of an over-heated feminene imagination! I think these anxieties have affected not only the leaderships of left groups but socialist women within and without them. Personally it has been the continuing practice of the movement which has helped to shift some of the nervousness for me.

Amanda Sebestyen makes a similar point in Cat Call, Issue 3, July 1976.

55. Paul Atkinson, ‘The Problem With Patriarchy’, Achilles Heel, no. 2, 1979, p. 22.

56. Zillah R. Eisenstein, ‘Developing a Theory of Capitalist Patriarchy’, in ed. Eisenstein, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, New York, Monthly Review, 1979, p. 7-8.

57. See Vic Seidler, ‘Men and Feminism’, Achilles Heel, no. 2, 1979 (this is part of a longer MS on self denial, sexual politics and the left to be published soon).

58. Sarah Benton, ‘Consciousness, Classes and Feminism’, Red Rag, no. 12, p.27.

59. Linda Gordon and Allen Hunter, ‘Sex, Family and the New Left:

Anti-Feminism as a Political Force’, Radical America, Vol. 11, no. 6; Vol. 12, no. 1, November 1977/February 1978. (This article is also available in pamphlet form published by the New England Free Press, 60 Union Square, Somerville, Mass. 02143.)

60. Introduction, Rape Crisis Centre First Report, p.I.

61:. Not so much a Nursery … , Market Nursery, Hackney, London, 1977, p.22.

62. On NAC see Ruth Petrie and Anna Livingstone, ‘Out of the Back Streets’, Red Rag, 00. 11; Roberta Henderson, ‘Feminism is not for Burning’, ‘Speculations’, in Cat Call, Issue 2, April 1976; NAC and its Lessons for the Socialist Feminist Movement, document, Socialist Feminist Conference.

63. Unofficial Reform Committee, The Miners’ Next Step, p. 12.

After this was finished I read two articles which are arguing along similar lines from rather different starting points. If you are interested in following some of the ideas through either in terms of strategy of the women’s movement and socialism or in terms of working-class community organising, see: Nancy Hartstock, ‘Feminist Theory and the Development of Revolutionary Strategy’, in ed. Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, op. cit., and Kathy McAfee, ‘City Life: Lessons of the First Five Years’, Radical America, Vol. 13, no. 1, January-February 1979.

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