Selma James in Ireland on entitlement, caring & the left

Selma James, the activist and political writer, spoke in Ireland during the week. She has been active since the time of the Spanish revolution in a number of countries and across many struggles but is possibly best known for the International Wages for Housework Campaign and her writings around gender, class and racism. I got to her 'Defending Caring and Welfare in Careless Times' meeting for the School for Social Justice in UCD where I tweeted notes to the WSM Twitter feed. The video of her talk (but not the more controversial Q&A session) has also been uploaded as has her entire talk 'How Can Women Defeat Austerity?' at CERSA, NUI Maynooth.

Picture: Theresa O'Keefe, used with permission 

This blog consist of the tweets (in chronological order thanks to Excel), the UCD video and a link to the Maynooth audio. The 90 minute Democracy Now interview with Selma is a good introduction to her life of activism.  The controversal part of the UCD Q&A sessions was when she gave her opinions of (not) working with vanguard parties, in particular naming the Socialist Workers Party, going as far as top say that the vanguard party thinks that it is born to rule and in this is like the aristocracy!  The hostility of many grassroots organisers to the organised left in something I've blogged on previously around the Spectacle of Definace and Occupy and its a discussion the organised left tends to deal with very badly.

I'm not, I'm afraid, familar with her writings (she has been on my 'must read' pile for a while) so I found the main body of her talk particularly interesting.  I've heard activists talking about putting caring or love at the center of the political agenda before but never in a way that left me with a clear picture of why they thought that was a politically useful thing to do.  I think I finally get it now.  In itself that might be a good example of why its important to make sure you are actually explaining ideas rather than just stating them and assuming they are obvious enough to be understood (or perhaps I'm just particularly slow).


Tweets sent to WSMIreland
At Selma James talk in UCD on women & resistance to austerity - talking about wages for housework & global women's strike
SJ - thinks the Chavez government unusual as it funded caregiving in the community
SJ - should be funding for caring because that is foundation of society - the market does not care if you live or die
SJ - UK had experience of Thatcher 'ending culture of entitlement' - cut all services she could - not entitled to survive
SJ - women primarily are the carers all over world - reproduction of human race must be priority - that doesn't just mean childbirth
SJ - tried to get unwaged women's work counted in gov stats & at UN - but we want men to be involved in very civilizing experience
SJ - men have been deprived of the experience of caring - young men want relationship with children
SJ - we are entitled to survive, to be cared for by each other and entitled to care
SJ - People in Ireland have long & glorious history of fighting for justice but have not opposed plans to undermine our entitlement
SJ - been unable to oppose market because organizations we formed incl women's movement have not defended us - something happened to them
SJ - 3rd world liberation movements headed by self aggrandisers - 20,000 children sleep every night in shelters in NYC
SJ - unions are on other side half the time - our organizations often stand against us - women's services now grant funded NGOs
SJ - women increasing discussing what do we need to do about this in particular as austerity hits
SJ - considering how to build movement we once had in a way it doesn't happen again - organise with community to demand funding for care
SJ - in UK we want care givers to have wage so that reproduction of human race is our priority
SJ - Irish constitution pretty sexist but gem that is not to be sniffed at in terms of mothers being entitled to money not having to work
SJ - each sector of women making own case for funding - a lot if work of mothers is justice work - problems in school, with racism etc
SJ - example - anti police frame up defence committee was almost entirely composed of mothers
SJ - ambition closely connected with corruption - seeps into every corner of national life
SJ - sex workers fighting for rights of women generally - must make sure every women safe not just 'repectable' women - address each sector
SJ - women do 2/3 worlds work most often unwaged
SJ - academia not always good for movement - tend to write for each other - what about rest of us
SJ - academia often feels it knows best without actually being involved in movement - seperation from grassroots of unbearable proportions
SJ - major upheavals in next period - more & more repressive laws prepared in UK
SJ - young people in London now very racially integrated - not as a statement but because its what they want
SJ - Occupy all power to 98% brilliant - means most of us belong together
SJ - example of very mixed race bloc of youth on demonstration in London dancing & showing how world could be different
SJ - what can one person do? Find another person - 2 people already an organization - so much to do you don't have to look too far
SJ - have to avoid left as so full of own concerns that take that as priority - that's part of problem with movements I spoke of
Last two tweets are Selma James responding to question from floor
SJ - breast feeding figures very low in Ireland - we have been sold view that dairy industry looking after our interests!
SJ - only way to influence gov is to have your back to them - can't undermine other sectors including men looking for wages in work
SJ - be scrupulous about money because it develops very good habits of organization - everyone trusts everyone else
SJ - make sure core org is mixed in race, disabilities, sex workers, single mothers, migrants etc all have enriching experience you need
SJ - we have to be together but we don't begin by that
SJ - left is in lot of trouble but left has caused lots of trouble - example problem of SWP takeover attempt in Occupy in US
SJ - left thinks it should be in charge - we were not building a movement for them
SJ - society believes we need to be LED - we have to attack that - vanguard party thinks it is born to rule like aristocracy
SJ - left has given Marx a bad name - he wanted to distinguish himself from power hungry left - hence I am not a Marxist
SJ - we will work with anyone - question of terms of unity - as soon as people tell us what to do we stop
SJ - work with anyone not racist not sexist for working class power but are opposed to domination left represents - they know & never come
SJ - you have to dig into your own roots, your own experiences - find out about your experiences to open your mind - left is so narrow
SJ - to be a good political organiser you need perception of novelist but you don't need ability to write
That's the end of the tweets from Selma James talk in UCD - were tweets useful?
Workers Solidarity ‏@WSMIreland

WORDS: @Andrew Flood


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