SPGB 2019 conference on patriarchy and feminism

Submitted by jondwhite on February 10, 2019

SPGB 2019 conference agenda has several motions on patriarchy and feminism so divisive I think it could lead to a split.

Motion A:
This Conference rejects the definition of capitalism as “male-dominated class society” and the view that “capitalism and patriarchy are aspects of the same thing”. Capitalism is based on the subordination of the working class to the capitalist class, which is not the same thing as the subordination of women to men. Conference further notes that the more advanced capitalism is the less the discrimination against women.

Supporting statement A:
At last year's Autumn Delegate Meeting Lancaster Branch asked “What is the Party's view of patriarchy?” It goes without saying that we are against it and for the full social equality of women and men. However, Lancaster suggested that patriarchy could be linked to capitalism; the passages in our motion are taken from their supporting statement. Our motion is intended to make it clear that the Party does not accept that approach.
There is still considerable discrimination today against women, especially in the economically backward parts of the world, but the fact that this is gradually lessening in the more advanced capitalist parts shows that it is not a built-in feature of capitalism. Modern feminists realise this too and seek to speed up this trend, which the spread of socialist ideas will speed up too.

Motion D:
‘This Conference affirms that capitalism is not only a class-divided society but is also patriarchal.’

Supporting statement D:
After long discussion online and at ADM this subject deserves to be resolved by formal resolution. To echo what we said at ADM, if Engels was correct that the rise of property society coincided with and very likely caused ‘the world historic defeat of the female sex’, then male domination or patriarchy was the first and longest-lived oppression visited on the human race. Since class and gender oppression exist and have always existed in parallel, to treat them as mutually exclusive concepts is simply to stick one’s head in the sand and perform theoretical contortions. Not only is it possible to see the world as both class-divided and also patriarchal, it is essential. If we don’t, we are effectively telling at least half of the world’s population that socialism is not for them.

Motion E:
‘This Conference reaffirms that the abolition of class oppression must of necessity entail the abolition of gender oppression.’

Supporting statement E.
For members this is a no-brainer, yet our position may not be at all clear to people outside the Party, especially given that the clause relating to women in the DoP is just two words long, consisting of ‘or sex’. The fear that gender oppression could survive and prosper into socialism itself is a very real one for many people, and we haven’t done enough to allay that fear. This resolution spells out to the working class in plain terms that the ending of gender oppression is intrinsic to socialist revolution, and not some tacked-on afterthought.

Motion F:
‘This Conference repudiates the view that capitalism will itself abolish the oppression of women.’

Supporting statement F.
At ADM the argument was put that it is in the economic interest of capitalism to eradicate the oppression of women, and that it is currently in the process of doing so. We’ve heard this claim before, and it’s been used as a reason to dismiss feminism as irrelevant. But if the argument is right, then after 300 or so years capitalism should have done it by now. Capitalism is nothing if not adaptive, and well able to reinvent itself where it sees the need. But what do we see instead? No country has ever managed to achieve equal pay or equal work opportunities in any sector of their economy, nor shows any sign of doing so. No country has eradicated sexual harassment, rape or domestic violence. While some legislative and cultural efforts have been made in some western countries, a superficial liberalism still masks a
deeply misogynistic undercurrent.

In 2017 in the UK 139 women were killed by male violence, leading a Guardian op-ed to describe a ‘war on women’ that is a ‘global pandemic’ (18 December, 2018). (See note 1). Indeed, globally gender oppression remains as severely and murderously entrenched as it ever was. Why hasn’t capitalism done better than this? The Guardian article offers a clue: ‘Even with the best police and criminal justice responses possible, if men continue to see women and children as their property, and believe that women exist to satisfy them sexually, then the rape and murder of women will never end’. The inference to draw from this is that capitalism is able to co-exist comfortably with the oppression of women because that oppression is really a form of property relationship, and thus if anything complementary to capitalist ideology. In consequence, the likelihood of capitalism eradicating gender oppression is so small that it should be repudiated as a socialist argument.
1 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/18/women-uk-femicide-statistics-died-maleviolence

Motion G:
‘This Conference considers that issues affecting women are such a prominent part of life for 50% of the population that they warrant a dedicated column in the Socialist Standard, if writers can be found for it.’

Supporting statement G:
We were asked at ADM to come up with concrete suggestions to encourage more female participation in the Party, so this is one suggestion. We don’t want to ‘instruct’ the Standard to do something it might not be able to do, but we don’t see any harm in making a general recommendation that might have a positive effect on female engagement.

Motion H:
‘This Conference is of the view that a person can be a socialist as well as a feminist.’

Supporting statement H.
We think most if not all members would say they support feminist principles to a large degree, and some members already regard themselves as bona fide feminists. At the same time, many feminists will also be broadly sympathetic with our case, and some will say they are feminist-socialists. There’s nothing wrong with this formulation in principle. The only thing we would disagree with is where some feminists pursue wholly reformist objectives, but in that case we would oppose them as reformists, not as feminists.

Motion I:
‘This Conference instructs the EC to establish an ad-hoc committee to look into ways of encouraging more female membership, to report to Conference 2020.’

Supporting statement I.
This is another concrete suggestion born of the ADM discussion, and while some people will not be enthusiastic about yet another ad-hoc committee, the subject does need serious attention if we’re ever going to make progress towards balancing the membership ratio. We would expect such a committee to undertake wide consultation both inside and outside the Party which is why we propose a fairly long time-frame.

ajjohnstone

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just to add a recent stat to Motion F on femicide

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brazil-women-killed-murder-death-femicide-human-rights-a8763791.html

Four women have been killed every day so far this year in Brazil.

Noah Fence

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

When and where is the conference?
Thanks.

ajjohnstone

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

April Sat 27- Sun 28, 10-30am onwards both days
The Head Office
52 Clapham High St.
SW4

As always, all observers are most welcome, the more the merrier, and (if as on previous occasions), a free lunch will be available where visitors can take up discussions over what they heard with members and others.(mind you, when I attended, I was first out the door for a liquid lunch to catch up on all the party gossip and scandals.)

When the full conference agenda comes online, I am sure somebody will post the link

Thankfully, these motions will result in a lively exchange of views. A welcome change when many of previous conference resolutions were about the minutia of internal rule procedures. Whether this results in resignations, I have no current feedback to suggest either way.

jondwhite

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The conference is the annual conference not specifically or only on patriarchy or feminism. It could send the SPGB the same way as Afed.

Spikymike

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

jondwhite, you shouldn't draw too many parallels between this and the differences between the continuing UK Anarchist Federation and the 'breakaway' Anarchist Communist Group both of whom still share some common views on the matter of capitalism and patriarchy and remain on otherwise good terms including an ongoing working relationship in London. I don't know why you are posting this here without giving your own views on the various SPGB motions and supporting statements either for or against and adding an unhelpful element of drama! In my opinion Party style resolutions such as these are rarely helpful in resolving differences of analysis and organisational practice against the background of more complex changing material conditions. I suspect these resolutions
that poorly express on the face of it opposing views, still contain some common elements of truth. Of course 'things' can be interrelated without being 'the same' and it is necessary to distinguish theoretical abstraction from everyday reality.
My own views have been expressed to some extent on the preceding SPGB Summer school which seems to have been a prelude to these resolutions and which proceeded without any rancour if not to any agreed conclusions, (as here. https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/spgb-summer-school-12022018).

ajjohnstone

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike from my previous contributions on Libcom forum, you won't be surprised that I have a particular interest in how Motion C progresses.

‘This Conference is of the view that the Party should take positive steps to contact political fellow travellers (eg anarchists, libertarian socialists etc) and invite their participation in friendly forums, combined talks, day-schools and social events.’

Supporting statement:
We may have the word ‘hostile’ in our DoP but that shouldn’t stop us being friendly with like-minded people even if they have points of difference with us and won’t join our Party as a result. We, and they, recognise that if the libertarian anarchist/socialist political current was an animal it would be listed as critically endangered, so we need to do more to reach out to others who think along similar lines.

And there was poor wee me thinking I was on my own...

comradeEmma

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If these motions "could lead to a split" then I am very curious to see what the SPGB currently thinks because they seem pretty standard.

whichfinder

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

I don't know why you are posting this here without giving your own views on the various SPGB motions and supporting statements either for or against and adding an unhelpful element of drama! In my opinion Party style resolutions such as these are rarely helpful in resolving differences of analysis and organisational practice against the background of more complex changing material conditions.

Classic example of shit-stirring by the OP.

redschlog

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LeninistGirl

If these motions "could lead to a split" then I am very curious to see what the SPGB currently thinks because they seem pretty standard.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with the group. Motion A is the orthodox thinking of the SPGB. It would not be unfair to regard the SPGB as class reductionist (to use the parlance). The other motions are a feminist challenge to the ideological orthodoxy. The group is, however, broad enough to encompass both views. "Could lead to a split"? My arse. Internal affair. Of interest only to leftist trainspotters such as myself. No comparison to AF/ACG split. Shit stirring.

Grunter

3 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

One could argue that taking '...positive steps to contact political fellow travellers (eg anarchists, libertarian socialists etc ) and invite their friendly participation...' proposed in Motion C has been unofficial SPGB policy for the last twenty five years or so. For all the good it has done them. During that time the membership has halved, there are fewer writers and speakers, and, apart from the ethical socialist who plays the stock market with Party funds, most of the membership is wholly inactive. Paradoxically ( although not in a formal sense ) the more inactive a member is, the better, since the most useful comrades are those who die and leave the Party money and property.
What Alan Johnstone's motive is for urging the continuation of this practise - one can only speculate.

comradeEmma

3 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

April Sat 27- Sun 28, 10-30am onwards both days

The conference has come and passed, how did it go?

whichfinder

3 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LeninistGirl

April Sat 27- Sun 28, 10-30am onwards both days

The conference has come and passed, how did it go?

It went exceedingly well with the largest turnout of comrades for some years and not the faintest whiff of a split. Mind you, the various motions have yet to be put to a vote of the entire party membership although it's not expected that the general mood will be substantially different to that of the conference delegates.

Spikymike

3 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So while we wait for the lengthy procedures of spgb democracy to reveal themselves, a healthy text from others relating to my #6 post comment above might be worthwhile some in the spgb and others (maybe in the AF and ACG) giving a critical read of this here:
https://libcom.org/blog/class-racism-women-s-oppression-critical-thoughts-intersectionality-theory-19062019

Spikymike

3 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So a provisional report on this further to posts #12 and #13 above from alb at #188886 here:
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/feminism-motion/
Not very surprising - contains on the face of it some self-contradictory elements.

rat

3 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

a healthy text from others relating to my #6 post comment above might be worthwhile some in the spgb and others (maybe in the AF and ACG) giving a critical read of this here:
https://libcom.org/blog/class-racism-women-s-oppression-critical-thoughts-intersectionality-theory-19062019

ACG memebers are aware of this document, and have circulated it via Twitter too.

Spikymike

3 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Not of interest to most here but there is also a short related discussion of the motions passed or rejected at their conference on this thread here;
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/women-feminism-and-socialism
As an ex-member, one of the 'faction' expelled or resigned way back in 1974, this seems to me to illustrate the usual spgb snails pace of change - always reluctantly trying to catch up with the reality of the material world around them - and missing opportunities to energetically engage with the changing nature of the everyday class struggle.

Aced V

2 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Was there any video finally uploaded of this?

jondwhite

2 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Aced V

Was there any video finally uploaded of this?

Afaik there was no recording of this.

ajjohnstone

2 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Annual Conference and our Autumn Delegate Conference are not recorded or videoed.

In future, they may well be, using the Discord app technology which is presently being rolled out due to lockdown circumstances. See SPGB home-page for details of Discord meetings

jondwhite

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Last years resolution 'This Conference is of the view that a person can be a socialist as well as a feminist.’ has now been rescinded by conference 2020.

comradeEmma

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Why?

Spikymike

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well you have to laugh sometimes, I mean the spgb membership seems still to be fairly evenly split over all this following a long, and sometimes acrimonious discussion amongst a handful of their members that revolved to a large extent over differences of terminology, so I've no reason to amend what I said in the later part of my previous post#6. It's all here in boring detail for those who can be bothered:
https://worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/feminism-motion/

Red Marriott

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Last years resolution 'This Conference is of the view that a person can be a socialist as well as a feminist.’ has now been rescinded by conference 2020.

What a momentous ground-breaking motion: the whole orientation of global working class struggle has now changed. Thanks for letting us know.

comradeEmma

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Throwback to when SPGB opposed the Suffragettes because gaining political rights would not be the same thing as full emancipation...

darren p

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

comradeEmma

Throwback to when SPGB opposed the Suffragettes because gaining political rights would not be the same thing as full emancipation...

In effect the Suffragettes were campaigning only for votes for propertied women.
socialist standard june1908

What are the facts regarding the Suffragettes? Under the pretence of sex equality they are buttressing class privilege. Under the guise of democracy they are endeavouring to strengthen the political power of property. They plausibly propose that women be admitted to the franchise on the same terms as men, and since all Socialists want sex equality this looks attractive. But wait. What does it really mean? Men vote at present under the £10 franchise. The suffrage is thus upon a property basis with plural voting for the wealthy. Therefore, according to the proposals of the women Suffragists, only those women having the necessary property qualifications are to be allowed to vote. This excludes not only all those single working women unable to qualify because of their poverty, but it also bars practically the whole of the married women of the working class who have no property qualifications apart from their husbands’. Further, it increases enormously the voting power of the well-to-do, since the head of the wealthy household can always impart the necessary qualifications to all the women of his house, while the working-man, through his poverty, is entirely unable to do so.

The limited suffrage movement is consequently only a means of providing votes for the propertied women of the middle class, and faggot votes for the wealthy; possibly tipping the balance of votes against the workers—men and women. Yet the Suffragettes pretend that this is a movement for the benefit of working women! The huge sums spent in this agitation prove that it is not a workers’ movement. It is a movement by women of the wealthy and middle class to open up for themselves more fully careers of exploitation, and to share in the flesh-pots of political office, to get sinecures, position and emoluments among the governing caste.

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1900s/1908/no-46-june-1908/suffragette-humbug/

Don't know what the Socialist Standard said about campaigners for full voting rights..

Red Marriott

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The whole working class has been holding its breath awaiting this historic decision. Ever forward, brothers & sisters, along the shining path illuminated by the SPGB Conference vote.

alb

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

“Don’t know what the Socialist Standard said about campaigners for full voting rights.”

The question was asked directly in the November 1913 issue and answered as follows;

“ Our attitude towards Adult Suffrage is as follows :
While Adult Suffrage would be a useful measure for the working class, to enable them to more quickly and completely take control of political power when they understand how to use their votes, yet as the working class have a franchise wide enough for the initial steps of their emancipation, it is not the business of a Socialist Party to spend time and energy in advocating the extension of that franchise, but to educate the workers in how to use the voting power which they already possess; hence the business of a Socialist Party is to advocate Socialism only.“

An editorial in April 1910 issue made the point;

“We have no quarrel with the abstract proposal that women should have an equal part with men in the arrangement of the common activities, i.e., politics ; but that is a very different matter to advising working women to join a franchise agitation at this time of day.”

Meanwhile the anarchists were advocating that women should not bother to campaign for the vote at all as it was useless anyway.

Noah Fence

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Red Marriott

The whole working class has been holding its breath awaiting this historic decision. Ever forward, brothers & sisters, along the shining path illuminated by the SPGB Conference vote.

Indeed. It these uncertain times this has come as an enormous relief to me as well - the clarity of my revolutionary vision has reached new heights!
Etc.

capricorn

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Isn’t there some rule here against flaming and trolls?

Noah Fence

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

capricorn

Isn’t there some rule here against flaming and trolls?

If there is then tell me what it is and I’ll break it!
#realfuckinganarchy!

ajjohnstone

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Capricorn, SPGBers are very tolerant of sarcasm masquerading as satire. Often it is the only attention we receive.

Red Marriott

2 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Mockery can make serious points.