EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 17. Women and Feminism Part 2
Posted by archivearchie on October 12, 2009
Episode 4 of this series contained the two Big Flame pamphlets on women, published in 1975 and 1980. Episode 16 included two articles on feminist issues from the journal Revolutionary Socialism, published in 1978 and 1980. This post provides a further selection of short articles on feminist issues from 1980-81, with a particular focus on the topic of women in Big Flame. A later post will contain a selection of articles to cover the final phase of BF’s life (see Episode 29).
A Day Return Ticket – Written for an educational session at the 1980 Big Flame Summer School.
Provides a quick guided tour of attempts to develop a Marxist feminism theory, including writers like Juliet Mitchell, Mary McIntosh and contributors to the domestic labour debate of the 1970s. Argues that many theorists have started off with Marxism and tried to fit women in. thus neglecting the fact that women’s oppression has a different logic to capital. A theory of patriarchy needs to be developed first. When this is worked out the interrelation with class can be considered.
Socialist-Feminism Today – From the 1981 Big Flame Women’s Conference Bulletin.
Looks at what is happening to a divided women’s movement after two years of Conservative Government. In particular, operating in separate women’s groups around particular issues, and working in mixed campaigns like CND or the Labour party to riase women’s issues.
Big Flame Discussion Paper for the NAC Conference 1980 – From the Discussion Bulletin May 1980.
Agues that NAC needs to be a mass campaign with an orientation towards the labour movement, but that to assert women’s autonomy local NAC groups need to be women only. This is the document mentioned in Episode 12 which caused, at least temporarily, a dispute between the National Committee and the Women’s Commission.
The remaining four articles are part of a discussion about women being members of Big Flame (which included an ultimatum at the 1980 conference that women would leave the organisation unless it genuinely integrated feminism within its politics). This discussion is worth considering in some detail as important questions were raised about the membership of women in mixed organisations.
Big Flame Socialist Feminist Perspective – Two related document from a 1980 Conference Bulletin.
Maintains that up to 1976 Big Flame made an important contribution to feminist politics, but since then it has played no significant role. This is associated with a decline in women’s power in the organisation. Details changes which would enable BF to keep women in the organisation.
Women and Big Flame – A response to the previous articles in another 1980 Conference Bulletin.
Shares the approach of the previous pair of articles, but disagrees with the suggestion that Big Flame has played no significant role post 1976. Mentions the involvement of BF women in Health Fightback, NAC and anti-imperialist women’s groups. Also includes suggestions of ways of improving the functioning of the Women’s Commission.
Women in Big Flame: Some Considerations – From the 1981 Big Flame Women’s Conference Bulletin.
Argues that current problems stem from a critical ambiguity in Big Flame’s politics. This is about the functioning of autonomous organisation of oppressed groups within and outside revolutionary organisations. The prefigurative efforts of BF, such as those around childcare, are very partial. Autonomous organisation does leave women in Big Flame free to discuss whatever they wish free from male pressures. Concludes with some proposals to reduce the marginality of women both as a feeling and in practice.
Women in Big Flame and Elsewhere – Notes of a women’s meeting, perhaps a workshop at the 1981 Women’s conference.
Discusses such issues as women as parents, their double workload and the “male methods” implicit in Big Flame’s structures. Maintains that their aim is not to simply list problems which weigh them down. Rather to establishing their general experience, building understanding which could alter the politics of BF to make it more accessible to women.
However I think that it is fair to say whatever the intention, all these contributions to the debate are better at outlining problems rather than identifying solutions. Those solutions presented are often quite sketchy and usually structural changes.
Note: Titles of articles or documents in red and bold are links to the full version. Press on them to bring up a PDF of the document.