This is based on the introduction to a discussion on the politics of disability given by Roderick C at a recent Waltham Forest Left Unity meeting.
Like blacks, women and LGBT people, disabled people are a group who routinely suffer discrimination and oppression in society. Although some argue that this is the inevitable result of the physical and mental impairments that we possess, or people’s basic prejudices about disabled people, this article argues that the systematic oppression of disabled people as we know it today has at its root how capitalism developed as a system.
In saying this, we should avoid idealising pre-capitalist society. Although there is undoubtedly some truth in the idea that in such societies, based on rural subsistence production and extended families, disabled members of the family would be cared for and even contribute to production, prejudice was rife in many societies. Martin Luther famously called disabled children “changelings” and argued they should be put to death, and in ancient Greece a child was not regarded as a child for seven days after birth, allowing disabled babies to be killed without moral stigma.
Today is Mother’s Day in Britain (aka “Mothering Sunday”) and this topic is extremely appropriate. The idea of accessing 24 hour childcare is an old one … the questions that arise are why this is an important issue and why we should we be advocating for it? The next obvious question is how can we actually obtain it, in other words, what policies can ensure that this is viable and offers a positive transformation (that offers fulfilment to women and children where their needs and wants are covered) rather than a negative one?
How do we understand the oppression of women? Is it something that can be easily solved with reforms within the system (e.g., unequal pay, equality under the law, access to education and work)? Or does our oppression derive from the nature of class societies, property ownership, and our role in social reproduction? For me, it is the latter and that is why I do not think that reforms are sufficient, but they certainly can be done and must be done, if only to address inequality. These reforms may not affect our oppression much (which will require the overthrow of class societies based upon property), but they will make our lives easier and they will also get allies to understand the nature of our oppression. I do not know about you, but I simply refuse to wait until the revolution for women’s oppression to be understood and inequality to be addressed. We are raised in the context of our societies and if we do not address this before we transform society, then, I am certain that those raised in these societies will never understand the need for change (or it will always be put off as there are other more immediate things that need to be addressed, as usual). Continue reading →
The anti-air war memorial erected by socialist and feminist campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst was re-dedicated in an event organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to co-incide with World Disarmament Day. The monument was put up by Sylvia on the grounds of the “Red Cottage”, her home in Woodford Green, in 1935 to show opposition to the fascist Italian government’s invasion of Ethiopia.
At the event a statement was read on behalf of her son Richard Pankhurst, who lives in Addis Ababa. Other speakers at the event included peace campaigner Bruce Kent, Pankhurst’s biographer Katherine Connelly, former Ilford North MP Linda Perham and Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green.
The Left Unity women’s caucus banner made its first outing at today’s re-dedication. In a bit of irony, the banners of several groups including CND, the Green Party women’s group and our banner were asked to be taken down as the event was “unpolitical”. Somehow, I doubt Sylvia Pankhurst would have agreed!
More information on Sylvia Pankhurst can be found here