Text of the Socialist Party Scotland leaflet for Reclaim the Night marches
A fight for the whole working class
November 25th marks the International Day Against Violence Against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.
Unfortunately in Scotland, and around the world, violence against women remains at pandemic proportions with one-in-three women experiencing domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
In recent years, we have seen some magnificent movements of women, particularly young women, to challenge sexual harassment, violence and abuse and challenging gender inequality.
From Spain, with general strikes of students, to Ireland, challenging the appalling treatment of the woman at the centre of the ‘Belfast Rape Trial’, to the #Niunamenos movements in Latin America and of course the global #Metoo movement – we have shown that we are willing to get organised to challenge misogyny and sexism that is so prevalent in our society.
The theme of this year’s 16 Days is “Challenging Sexual Violence At Work”. The recent global walk out by thousands of Google workers against the company’s handling of sexual harassment is yet another example of how pervasive the issue of sexual oppression at work is for working class women.
Google employees were enraged by the company’s $90 million ‘Exit Package’ for Andy Rubin, a senior company director, despite the company agreeing that the charges of sexual harassment against him were true.
The TUC reported in 2016 that 52% of women have experienced unwanted sexual behaviours at work, from groping to inappropriate jokes – for those aged 16 – 24 this rose to 63%.
The report also found that women working in the services sector, on zero hour/short term contracts, were at higher risk of experiencing sexual violence and harassment at work.
Unsurprisingly, a tiny minority go on to report it and just 1% of women report sexual harassment to their union rep for fear of negative reprisals. It is no surprise that so many of the accusations being made are against men in positions of power.
Capitalism is based on a tiny minority of society – above all the capitalist class, the billionaires who own the major corporations and banks – having enormous power to exploit the majority.
We live in a world where the richest eight people own as much as half the world’s population. Inevitably in such a society, among those with power will be people who habitually try to use their status to sexually abuse or harass women and men with less power than them, not least their employees.
But this does not, of course, mean that working class men are exempt from such behaviour. Sexism is woven into the fabric of capitalism and affects every strata of society.
For the countless millions of people facing sexual harassment in their workplace worldwide, the single thing that would most empower them to fight back would be to be part of a collective organisation involving a majority of their workmates – a fighting trade union – prepared to back them up when they took a stand, like the Equal Pay strikers in Glasgow.
Linked to this, we need a political party armed with a socialist programme, which puts fighting for gender equality at the heart of its fighting programme.
What’s socialism got to do with it?
The capitalist system is incapable of delivering equality because it lives and breathes inequality! Sexism and the oppression of women is rooted in the DNA of this patriarchal system.
A socialist society would end gender-based oppression and would be based on democratic public ownership where societies resources can be harnessed to meet the needs of all.
We would, on the basis of socialism, begin to see the overcoming of all kinds of oppression, creating the basis for new non-exploitative human relations.
To achieve it requires a united struggle of working class people, young people and the oppressed.
Support the Equal Pay strikers – Why we need socialist feminism
The leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, has been invited to speak at the Glasgow march. We think this is a mistake.
Susan Aitken and the SNP-led council have, just last month, been involved in a major dispute with 8,000 trade unionists, overwhelming women, over the issue of equal pay.
Moreover, her council is discussing making £60m in cuts to Glasgow council services, which will overwhelmingly impact working class women in the city.
In the weeks before the Equal Pay strike, Susan Aitken used the media to claim the women were being manipulated and didn’t know why they were striking. Her council’s anti-trade union methods included threatening court action against workers who took solidarity action.
Susan Aitken will no doubt say she is a feminist. But this anti-worker, pro-capitalist feminism does nothing to liberate working class women from oppression.
Far better would have been to invite an Equal Pay striker and allow them to make the case for an end to pay discrimination and for equal rights at work.
This is the approach that socialist feminists and Socialist Party Scotland would take.
- Socialist Party Scotland members played a leading role in the recent massive Equal Pay strike in Glasgow.
- In Spain, our comrades organised over 1 million students to walk out on strike against sexist violence and to demand the teaching of non-sexist education in the classrooms.
- In Ireland, our comrades helped lead the recent referendum victory for a women’s right to choose. We are also exposing the scandal of the legal system allowing a women’s underwear to be used in court at a rape trial to undermine her case.
A socialist programme to end discrimination and gender-based oppression
- No to all discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, and all other forms of prejudice.
- For a mass campaign, spearheaded by the workers’ movement, against sexual harassment, violence and all forms of sexual discrimination
- Build fighting trade unions democratically controlled by members
- For mass parties of the working class with socialist programmes, including the fight for gender equality
- A mass struggle for equal pay, as part of the fight for a living wage for all linked to a shorter working week with no loss of pay
- No to all cuts. Decent jobs, pay, and housing for all. For massive expansion of public services
- For maternity and child benefits that reflect the real cost of bringing up a child and the right to paid parental leave
- The provision of high-quality flexible public childcare facilities available to every child
- For a woman’s right to choose. Freely available high-quality contraception and fertility treatment for all who want it. For the right to abortion on demand
- Bring the major corporations and banks into public ownership under democratic workers control and management, compensation paid only on the basis of proven need
- A democratic socialist plan of production in the interests of the overwhelming majority of people, implemented in a way that safeguards the environment and lays the basis for ending all forms of class, sexual, racial and gender-based oppression