John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

We want a women’s mag

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The 'We Want a Women's Mag' meeting was a great success, with a turnout of 23 women at a quick headcount and five men. Women in the room were from a wide range of left organisations, involved in campaigns, in their unions and unaffiliated and not one organisation dominated in numbers, which was refreshing. We really felt there was a regroupment of the left in women’s politics.

The day kicked off with a brief introduction: the aim of the meeting was to bring women across the left together, to share ideas about the publication and what we want to get out of it. The purpose of the publication is to create a space for women to express themselves, which was summed up brilliantly by a friend and comrade of mine: that 100% space means a dedicated space for more voices to be heard, rather than having to fight for space in a general interest publication. I think it is important to continue to write for other left publications and insist on women’s space within all publications, at the same time as creating our own space. As a Marxist, I think a class analysis of oppression is important, but we should not cut ourselves off from learning new ideas from women in the movement, so all women on the left are welcome to contribute to our shared voice. I think it is important to hear to voices of marginalised women, such as migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, because this is the area I work in and I understand how disempowered these women are and how little we hear of their lives and experiences.

We had a full and comradely discussion, with a wonderful collaboration of ideas and a sharing of our experiences in our workplaces, the unions and in the movement. It was interesting to hear what feminism meant to different people, with one comrade expressing that feminism for her was an old 1970's analysis, having grown up then, she felt 'liberation politics' was a better and new way of understanding women's oppression. A couple of us born in the 1980's, having left the SWP and the SP felt that the 'liberation politics' label is a tool that is used to beat women on the left in to conforming to a narrow understanding of oppression, which has cut us off from important feminist discourse. We shouldn’t forget what the feminist movement did for us, because it put women’s autonomy on the map, helped build women’s confidence and created safe spaces to work together. Women expressed that we should open up to 21st century feminist ideas and carry the voices of women fighting back now, whilst remembering the struggle our sisters fought in the past.

Women's intentions for our magazine varied, some envisaged a campaign publication for working class women, where others thought it should be something all women want to read, which includes healthy living and fashion pages, from a left perspective, and others a new way of ordinary women and not just theoreticians, coming up with new theory. Many women felt sexual violence should be covered in all issues of the magazine, particularly those of us who have experienced cover-ups of rape and violence in left-wing organisations, although some felt that these issues were covered adequately by the mainstream media, particularly in the Guardian. Some women expressed the need to hear the voices of low paid women, dealing with bullying from management, women on strike, and women in struggle. There was a suggestion that the left should be discussing the grooming of girls, such as the case of the girls in Rochdale who were sex trafficked, rather than leaving the reporting of this to the right wing media. These were all important ideas and we really got a feel for the energy and vibrancy of our project and a glimpse at a publication bursting with the lives, thoughts and interests of all women standing together in life and struggle.

We discussed women’s services and availability issues, sex education and healthy relationships, and that Women’s Aid are involved in educational workshops. We heard about the 1 Million Women Rise, bringing music and dance to Bristol, drawing attention to violence against women. Some felt we should have a charter to take to the movement and others felt this was restrictive. In the run up to the WW1 anniversary we could write about women in history opposing imperialist wars, such as Rosa Luxemburg. We should interview women in the movement, including women from BME communities involved in the United Family Campaign, cleaners successful in strike action for better pay and conditions, and open up a line of communication with Southall Black Sisters. We thought it would be great to hear the voices of women from Syria and other war torn countries writing about their region and experience, and we should include stories, music and art from revolutionary Egypt.

We discussed how we should use previous feminist magazines, such as Spare Rib, as a model to help set up the publication. A clear consensus was reached on the format of the publication - blog to send in content, website with PDF versions of the contributions, and a run of a print publication, depending on finance and events. The new editorial team is made up of volunteers, from a cross-section of organisations on the left, with skills ranging from editorial experience, ability to speak a number of languages, including Russian, Japanese and German and organisational experience. I personally felt that whilst skills are important in order to put our words in to practice, our politics and a commitment to organising are also essential components in the composition of the editorial board, and we should give room for skills to be learnt. The deadline for the magazine has not be set, but the editorial board will be meeting to discuss the next stage of the process, and we have a list of names and contact details of the women who would like to get involved, so we will be setting up an email list. If you are interested in getting involved, we have a Facebook page called We Want a Women’s Mag and the blog and the website will be coming soon so we will send out more details.

Finally, I would like to thank our five male comrades; Simon, for his technical support and minute taking, when we most needed it, James and Steven for standing by as crèche support workers for anyone who needed this facility throughout the day, and Arnie and Paul for their patience, support and thoughtful contributions. We really felt supported by you all.