Annie Lord, Hazel Croft and Taisie Tsikas respond to the rs21 event A Day Without Men, held at SOAS on Saturday 7th October 2017. The day of discussion included sessions on Corbyn and ‘Corbynomics’, social reproduction and struggles for healthcare and housing, and repression and resistance in Catalonia, which the three attendees outline below.
Corbyn, the Labour Party and ‘Corbynomics’
Sara Bennett began her presentation on Corbynomics by recalling bumping into him at a bus stop in North London. Handing out flyers in an attempt to gain enough support to stand in the 2015 Labour leadership election, he said to her “I just want to open up a conversation”, before mumbling something about bringing the party back to the left. The idea of him becoming the leader of the party, embarrassing the Tory government to the point of national ridicule and becoming the face of a burgeoning socialist revival was at that moment an entirely foreign concept.
After drawing attention to the unprecedented shift in the political climate, Sara went on to summarise Corbyn’s Labour manifesto. His commitment to renationalise the railways, open regional banks to redistribute wealth and re-orientate the economy back to a focus on production rather than financial speculation were all seen as positive aspects of his vision.
But other policies were shown to be less radical than many of us originally thought. As a member of the audience pointed out, the amount of money promised for the NHS is not enough to safeguard its decline, after cuts corporation tax would still be the lowest in Europe, and do we really want more police on the streets?
Perhaps all Corbyn offers us at this moment in time is regulated capitalism, but set against Sara’s thoughtful opening sequence, the session showed that his project is something the left must rally around in order to facilitate a more radically red future.
Social reproduction and struggles for healthcare and housing
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of A Day Without Men for me was that the atmosphere at the event was in such contrast to the usual left political meetings I attend, where men tend to dominate the discussion and seem to compete to make the definitive political point and/or to showcase their knowledge. At A Day Without Men there was a far more relaxed and open atmosphere, with everyone participating in the discussion groups and most contributing to the main discussion. There was a sense of trying to unpick and better understand the issues we were discussing – reformism, social reproduction and nationalism.
I particularly enjoyed the session on social reproduction, finding it helpful that the theory of social reproduction was explained so clearly in concrete examples from our working lives (such as the caring role health workers are expected to perform) and our home lives (including the design of our houses). Yet the session was also frustrating – mainly because I wanted more of it. I felt we did not explore the theory deeply enough and I would have liked to relate social reproduction to other aspects of our lives, like sexual violence for example. The day was organised with the purpose of encouraging women and non-binary comrades to take a more active and involved part in revolutionary politics – and to that end it provided a much needed space for voices that we don’t hear enough in many meetings. But we also need to develop our theory on gender issues more thoroughly too.
Catalonia: repression and resistance
We were lucky to be able to hear directly from Mireia Sants, a CGT union member and socialist based in Catalonia. She described the brutality of the Guardia Civil on the day of the referendum (including at least one instance of sexual assault), the grassroots resistance, and the surge in fascist rallies across Spain. The EU’s response to the crisis has been intensely unsupportive of Catalonia, referring to the conflict as an “internal matter” and threatening that an independent Catalonia would “find itself outside the EU”. The question of the nature of the independence movement was our focus. Barcelona is one of the richest cities in Spain, and there is a bourgeois aspiration to a low-tax independent Catalonia. Our speaker believed passionately in a leftist independence movement not motivated by parochialism, private interests or reactionary nationalism, although the risk of these currents becoming decisive may have to be confronted. Despite the various conflicting politics that may have brought the independence movement to this point, it seemed to us that the recent events have made manifest the nature of the conflict: the Spanish state revealed its authoritarian contempt for democracy and self-determination, emboldening fascists saluting in the streets under the nation’s flag, while voters in Catalonia protected the most vulnerable in their communities and stood together in solidarity.
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