Report: Socialist Party national women’s meeting

Tessa Warrington, Leicester Socialist Party

On 9 January around 40 members from across the country travelled to London to attend the Socialist Party’s annual national women’s meeting. It’s an event I always eagerly anticipate, and this year was no exception.

The discussion kicked off with an excellent first session on Jeremy Corbyn and looked at what fresh political developments may mean for women in 2016.

George Osborne’s proposed £10 billion of budget cuts will hit women hardest as they struggle disproportionately with rising childcare costs, domestic violence and low pay.

Next, there was an important discussion on the role women workers played in the rise of ‘New Unionism’ in the 1880s. That period saw the fight for a broader trade union movement that organised women and unskilled workers for the first time.

The key dispute that ignited that struggle was the London matchgirls strike in 1888, who despite being the most down-trodden group of workers were able to score a great victory.

These developments were the foundations of the modern trade union movement today and ultimately lead to the formation of the Labour Party, then a political voice for the working class – something we vitally need today.

The final session covered current trends and ideas in the women’s movement, such as identity politics and intersectionality, which focus on the different forms of oppression in society and how they interact.

United struggle

Reflectively, the meeting itself did not just represent women but also members of ethnic minorities and the LGBT and disabled communities.

Socialist Party members, like the rest of the population, do not fit neatly into boxes but face a variety of oppressions created by the capitalist system.

We discussed how as socialists we do not allow ourselves to be divided by those differences. Instead we are united in our shared need to break the chains of oppression and understand that it is only by the whole of the working class standing together that we can achieve this.